An article published online at Kentucky.com and in the Herald-Leader incorrectly said that the state Department of Highways had recently installed temporary concrete barriers in the median of Interstate 65. Those barriers have been in place for more than a year. Also, while the legislature has passed legislation giving the department the authority to install additional temporary barriers along I-65, no decision has been made as to where they will be placed.
A deadly year so far on Interstate 65 in Hart County has prompted the installation of temporary concrete barriers and the pursuit of a more permanent remedy.
The newly installed temporary barriers stopped a tractor-trailer from crossing the median into oncoming traffic last week, said Mark Brown, spokesman for the state Department of Highways in Elizabethtown.
"They will be up until there is a more permanent solution," Brown said.
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The temporary barriers' installation came after the deaths of 11 people in a crash on I-65 in March. A tractor-trailer crossed the median at mile maker 63 near Munfordville, plowed through a cable barrier and struck a 15-passenger van carrying a Mennonite family to a wedding. Ten of the 12 passengers in the van were killed. After running over the van, the tractor-trailer careened into a rock wall, burning up and killing its driver.
A highway plan recently approved by the General Assembly allows the Department of Highways to pursue putting a concrete barrier between the opposing lanes of I-65 in Hart and LaRue counties. Such a barrier might have stopped the tractor-trailer from crossing the median.
The plan also allows for some widening of I-65 to six lanes in the area.
The expansion of about 15 miles of I-65 approved in the plan, from Exit 43 (onto the Cumberland Parkway) to Exit 58 (Horse Cave), should start next spring, according to Keir sten Jaggers, spokeswoman for the Department of Highways in Bowling Green.
This continues the transition of I-65 to a six-lane interstate, which began in the mid-1980s. Both ends of the interstate in Kentucky, which are more urban than the center, have been expanded. The length of interstate between Louisville and Elizabethtown was the first section to be completed. In 1999, a decade-long widening of I-65 between the Tennessee state line and Exit 43 was started.
About 50 miles of interstate remain four lanes wide.
"It's taken a while to get it completely three lanes (in both directions) and, right now, it's the expense," Jaggers said. "It's just so costly to widen even a mile."
The new project will expand the northbound and southbound lanes inward, and a permanent concrete barrier is planned.
"If you're widening to the middle, if you're pushing those vehicles closer to each other, you've got to create a physical barrier," said Jeff Moore, chief of the Division of Planning for the Department of Highways in Bowling Green.
The history of fatal wrecks on I-65 in Hart County has earned it the nickname Death Valley.
There have been at least 12 fatalities on that 20-mile stretch of interstate so far this year. From 2004 to 2009, there were 24 deaths on I-65 in Hart.
The entirety of I-65 traveling through Kentucky, about 137 miles, averaged 0.81 deaths per mile between 2004 and 2008, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The portion of I-65 in Hart for the same time period averaged 1.1 deaths per mile.
Those figures make I-65 the deadliest highway in the state.
Just last week, an infant died after being thrown from a 2002 Lincoln Navigator when the vehicle smashed into a guardrail three miles north of Munfordville.