September 21, 2015 — WJHL reports that the controversial ET-Plus guardrail end-terminal will undergo a new series of independent crash tests by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
VDOT approved the guardrails in 2000. In 2005, Trinity quietly modified the design, saving about $2 in materials per guardrail. Critics say they are now more likely to buckle and impale oncoming cars in head-on collisions. VDOT did not learn of the modifications until 2013.
VDOT has clashed with the manufacturer of the guardrail, Trinity Industries, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) — both of whom say no further testing is necessary.
Trinity is now accusing VDOT of rigging the tests to “support its litigation agenda and with the specific intent to make the product fail.”
VDOT says their only intention is “to make sure that we do the very best that we can to make our highways as safe as possible.”
In January, Trinity and the FHWA completed a series of eight crash tests in San Antonio, Texas. The ET-Plus “passed” all eight tests, despite the fact that the eighth test ended with the guardrail buckling and severely damaging the door of an oncoming car.
The tests were conducted by a former business partner of Trinity under the close watch of the FHWA. State officials and media were not allowed to videotape, photograph, or measure the guardrails being tested. The FHWA also allowed an older standard to be used when evaluating the guardrails, which it now says is outdated.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported on lobbying efforts between Trinity and the FHWA since 2012. In April, the Justice Department opened a criminal probe that included interviewing potential witnesses about Trinity’s relationship with the FHWA.
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