National Safety Council recognizes Illinois Tollway’s innovative new barrier design

The National Safety Council has named the Illinois Tollway’s new, advanced barrier wall a semi-finalist for the Green Cross for Safety Awards in the innovation category. 

The Green Cross for Safety Awards recognize various outstanding projects and organizations working to save lives and prevent injuries. Finalists will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Orlando on October 11. 

The new barrier wall helped the Illinois Tollway overcome a longstanding maintenance and operations challenge: When constructing noisewalls behind roadway barriers, a 4-foot buffer was required. However, that space created significant maintenance issues including the accumulation of difficult-to-remove debris, impeding snow storage activities and overall less space on the right-of-way. 

The Illinois Tollway designed a unique solution: a noisewall attached to a barrier. Called the Constant Slope Barrier System, it is the first barrier design of its kind that meets the uniform guidelines for crash-testing permanent and temporary highway safety features outlined in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH), Test Level 5, a set of safety recommendations developed by the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials. 

By bringing together the barrier and noisewall, the new structure has a smaller footprint than typical roadway barriers.  This frees up space for construction activities, emergencies or for motorists to pull out of traffic and minimizes the need for added right-of-way. 

The new barrier is designed to accommodate vehicles typically found on an interstate highway and to minimize impact from vehicles as large as an 80,000-pound tractor trailer.

While the design was primarily intended to address operational needs, it also resulted in numerous safety improvements. The combination of the raised and constant sloped barrier reduces the potential for rollover accidents involving cars and trucks in accordance with MASH TL-5 standards. 

The Illinois Tollway worked with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to perform simulation of the current 42-inch barrier and the 6-foot barrier. The 6-foot barrier system was physically crash tested in September 2019 and was witnessed by 25 state departments of transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Many of these agencies are now looking to implement this design into their own barrier systems. 

The new barrier design is now included in all Illinois Tollway contracts and has been installed at several locations on the five roadways that make up the 294-mile Illinois Tollway system in Northern Illinois. 

This is the second time the Illinois Tollway has been recognized by the National Safety Council for the Green Cross for Safety Awards in the innovation category. In 2020, the Illinois Tollway was named a finalist for the Safety Innovation Award for its smart work zones. That same year, the Illinois Tollway’s Teen Driver Safety Initiative was named a semi-finalist for the Safety Advocate Award. 

Click here to read the National Safety Council Green Cross for Safety Award announcement.

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