CDOT completes statewide guardrail inspections, works on emergency repairs

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DENVER -- A FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation into the unsafe installation of guardrail systems in Colorado has led to more than 100 emergency repairs.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said Tuesday its crews have finished inspecting around 21,000 sections of guardrail. The process identified 327 "incompatible installations."

CDOT found 140 of the installation errors along interstates and 187 others on highways. Thirty-nine percent of the guardrails have been repaired, with the vast majority of the remaining expected to be completed by the end of December.

A Problem Solvers investigation spurred the state into action. A piece of guardrail torpedoed through the door of a woman’s SUV instead of safely peeling away from her car.

Kristen Gerhard, 31 of Fort Collins, nearly lost her foot when the guardrail sliced across the interior floor.

Engineers helped identify two safety issues: Questionable design of the end-cap terminal, identified in federal safety reports, and an issue called "frankensteining" of guardrail parts.

State workers had been using incompatible guardrail parts during the repair process, with end caps from Road Systems and rails from Trinity Highways.

Trinity manuals warned CDOT that mixing and matching incompatible parts can lead to serious injury or death.

CDOT said it had no idea its repair crews were at times failing to conduct proper installations.

Inspection protocols for guardrail installations did not address reviewing repairs, only new safety equipment.

Once the the mixed and matched parts problem was pointed out, CDOT immediately addressed the issue by calling for statewide inspections.