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Long Island Highway Cable Barriers Come Under Scrutiny

Installed On LIE, Sunrise, They're Supposed To Wrap Up Cars, But Don't Always
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LIE safety barriers

Long island Expressway safety barriers (Photo: CBS 2)

Tony Aiello thumbnail Tony Aiello
Tony Aiello serves as a CBS 2 general assignment reporter. After...
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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There were new concerns Monday about a multimillion dollar highway project designed to make a dangerous road safer.

Law enforcement is starting to wonder if the project is working as intended, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

They started to go up in Suffolk County in August — steel cable barriers, strung along the median on 22 miles of the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway.

As one test video shows, the cables are engineered to snare a truck speeding at 55 mph.

“These were supposed to be designed to stop tractor trailers,” Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Chief Michael Sharkey told Aiello.

Sharkey said the goal is to reduce crossover accidents – like the one Aiello witnessed on video from 2007: a westbound truck barreled across the median, killing a woman driving east on the LIE.

When a vehicle hits a concrete barrier it often bounces right back into traffic. That’s not supposed to happen with these cable barriers, which are designed to wrap a vehicle up in a safety net of steel.

But as another video shows, they don’t always work as designed. Vehicles can go under or over the cables.

And in just two months on Long Island the barriers have repeatedly failed to stop vehicles that have hit them.

“We have seen somewhere in the neighborhood of four that have made it completely through the barrier,” Chief Sharkey said.

Three of those vehicles were passenger cars. The fourth was a full-sized pickup truck.

“If it’s not working, you gotta go back to the old method, concrete jersey barriers stop cars,” driver Mike Catik said.

“If would be nice, you know, for something like that to actually work!” another driver said.

The Sheriff’s Office said it will carefully monitor how the barriers work over the next few months, and ask the state Department of Transportation to review how they were designed — and built.

Despite concerns in Suffolk, the cable barriers are growing in popularity. North Carolina has made a big push to install them – and has seen crossover fatalities drop 75 percent.

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