Lawmakers pushing for upgrades to high rise safety barriers

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 11:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 6:34 AM

Antwan Harris / Eyewitness News
Email: aharris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @antwanharris

NEW ORLEANS -- Every day, thousands of cars pass through the high rise, which peaks at 115 feet.

Now some are calling for more safety on the interstate after a November 2013 crash pushed 29-year-old Danielle Rhone and her 2-year-old nephew over the side to their deaths.

State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, said much of the interstate in his district is set to get an upgrade of safety barriers, as the old aluminum barriers aren't enough.

“Years ago when the Louisiana Department of Transportation put these barriers out there, they were never designed to be safety barriers but there for an aesthetic look. Over time they became damaged and you had some people who started stealing them."

Theft has been one issue that has kept the state from replacing some areas that need upgrades because of the elevated costs.

It's also changed how the scrap industry does business. Lawmakers passed strict rules on the requirements to sell and increased the punishment for those caught selling stolen materials.

"So when thieves are stealing from us, they are stealing the profit right out of our pocket," said Simone Bruni of Demo Diva.

Bruni said the same thieves stealing guard rails are hitting her demo sites for steel, aluminum and copper, costing her thousands of dollars of profit.

“My profit is tied to completely to scrap metal,” Bruni said. “In commercial jobs scrap metal is what funds our business."

The state of Louisiana is set to install more than 20 miles of cable barriers between interstate 510 and the Twin Span as an upgrade to the highway system.

Badon said they have been proven to save lives by stopping cars from going over railings and crossing lanes of oncoming traffic.

His push is for the state to install the barriers across the nearly 900 miles of Louisiana interstates.

"When you drive around and see one damaged, that means a vehicle has been repelled from going to the other side," Badon said.

The upgrade is being paid for by federal dollars.

The same project was completed along interstate roadways between New Orleans and Baton Rouge in 2012. That project cost $2.7 million, all paid for the Federal Highway Administration.

 

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