Kentucky

Stretch on Interstate 65 has been a concern for years

In just a few weeks in early 2008, eight people were killed in median crossover wrecks along the same stretch of Interstate 65 where 11 died Friday.

State Sen. Carroll Gibson, who represents Hart County, said the problem is that I-65 is six lanes wide north of Elizabethtown and south of Bowling Green, but only four lanes through the area where the crashes have happened.

"The problem is that whole particular section," Gibson said. "They bottle up all the way down through there."

Gibson said he pushed last year to use federal stimulus dollars to widen that stretch of I-65, but was told that the project didn't qualify.

Two years ago, the state Transportation Cabinet said that its long-range plans call for widening that section, and installing a concrete barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes, but added that the project had no funding.

On Friday, a cabinet spokesman said current budget proposals include widening work below Hart County, but not in Hart County itself.

Temporary steel cable barriers were installed in the median in May 2009, cabinet spokesman Mark Brown said.

After Friday's wreck, the barrier's four strands of cable were unbroken, but the steel posts that held them in place had been bent parallel to the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a six-member team to investigate the crash. Vice Chairman Christopher Hart said Friday evening that the cables are a level 4 barrier, capable of deflecting a large box-type truck, but not a tractor-trailer. A barrier rated level 5 or level 6 would have withstood Friday's impact, Hart said.

Also on the NTSB team is chairwoman Debbie Hersman, who was in charge of the 2006 investigation of the crash of Comair Flight 5191 in Lexington.

The NTSB will evaluate every aspect of the crash, including the vehicles involved; the trucking company and its procedures; the children's car seats; and highway design (including the barriers), Hart said. It might be a year before the cause of the crash is released, he said.

The NTSB investigates only about 10 highway fatalities a year; it is involved in this crash because of the number of deaths, Hart said.

WASHINGTON - ONE

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