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Congressman Mark DeSaulnier

Representing the 11th District of California

Congressman DeSaulnier’s Statement on Scathing GAO Report Detailing Federal Highway Administration’s Failure To Address Dangerous Guardrails

July 8, 2016
Press Release

Washington, DC -- Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) issued the following statement today in response to the release of a Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) scathing report on “Roadside Safety Hardware Oversight, Testing and Data Collection.” DeSaulnier joined Senate colleagues in requesting the report after faulty guardrails caused numerous tragic injuries and the loss of life, including Bay Area resident and football star Darryl Blackmon, which resulted in a multi-million dollar legal judgment.

“The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) disburses around $40 billion a year to states for highway projects, including roadside safety hardware such as guardrails and barrier walls. However, GAO found ‘the agency tasked with making sure this money is well spent – does little to ensure these devices are actually safe.’

In addition to failing to provide strong oversight, the GAO report found that FHWA allows conflicts of interest at crash testing facilities; out-of-date and less rigorous safety standards; has no plan to track the progress of installation under new safety standards; and is not able to assess which devices could be on the road for decades, but would fail modern safety standards.

Media reports estimate more than 200,000 potentially unsafe guardrails may be on roads and highways. Particularly troubling is the revelation that FHWA ‘is doing little to evaluate whether guardrails have actually performed as they should, and have helped save lives instead of causing death and injury. Laboratory testing cannot replicate the effects of real-world roadside conditions and fails to provide vital information to stakeholders who make replacement or new product development decisions.’

Guardrails, barriers and terminals are put in place to protect us. In the event of an accident, the public should have full confidence they will do their job. I am working on legislation to address the issues raised by GAO.”

Earlier this year, DeSaulnier successfully included an amendment in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, commonly referred to as the highway reauthorization bill, directing the Department of Transportation to study ways to improve data collection on highway safety hardware devices including guardrails, barriers, terminals, and railings. This was the first step in a series of items DeSaulnier is working on to keep the public safe.

The full report can be found here