Kentucky plans inventory of possibly defective guardrail - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky plans inventory of possibly defective guardrail

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – State officials plan to determine how many potentially faulty guardrail heads are on Kentucky roads and highways, Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said Thursday.

Hancock told lawmakers that he believes “about hundreds” of the ET-Plus guardrail component are in use, but an exact number isn't yet known. The state banned the product, made by Trinity Highway Products of Dallas, last week.

At the same time, federal officials have ordered a new round of tests into the guardrail heads.

“Once those tests results are in, we will make an appropriate decision about the future use or removal of the ET-Plus guardrail end treatment system,” Hancock said at a meeting of the General Assembly's interim joint committee on transportation.

“If there is real evidence or a directive from (the Federal Highway Administration) that says the ET-Plus needs to be replaced, make no mistake -- we will not shy away from that directive and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action.”

If the state ultimately replaces the guardrail heads, Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said Hancock should try to recover all costs associated with installing new components.

“We're very interested in that,” Hancock said.

In response, Louisville Rep. Steve Riggs, a Democrat, said: “I think my taxpayers would expect you to be more than interested, that you would actually seek reimbursement if it's faulty.”

In an interview, Hancock said it's too early to speculate on replacement costs.

“I do know that most states presented with that same situation would be in the same spot,” said Hancock, who is also president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “I guess the question is, can the company stand up under that kind of financial pressure?”

A federal jury in Texas last month returned a $175 million verdict against Trinity for violating the U.S. False Claims Act. In that lawsuit, whistleblower Joshua Harman alleged that the manufacturer modified its guardrail head but failed to submit those changes for federal approval.

Harman also claimed in court documents that he was aware of deaths involving the guardrail head in Kentucky.

“I'm unaware of what he's talking about,” Hancock said after the meeting. “Frankly, if he'd made us aware of it we'd be happy to go investigate it to the nth degree.”

Asked if Kentucky officials should have read documents in the Texas lawsuit to see if the state was mentioned, Hancock said, “I think it's important to recognize that the states are not any sort of perpetrator here.”

Also at Thursday's meeting, lawmakers got an update on regulations being written for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which use smartphone apps to arrange for-hire rides for passengers in personal vehicles.

Rodney Kuhl, commissioner of Kentucky's Department of Vehicle Regulation, said he expects the regulations to be submitted to a state panel in December. Taxi operators and the ride-sharing companies have worked with Kuhl's department and Kentucky insurance officials to craft the regulations, he said.

"I have confidence that you guys are going to make sure that the insurance requirements are well-documented and broad enough to cover every issue," said Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, and the transportation committee's chair.


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