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Are Georgia roads about to become safer?

In 2013, large trucks were involved in 157 fatal crashes; together they accounted for nearly 10 percent of the total number of vehicles involved in fatal crashes for the year (1,636), according to the NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis.

Now, the port of Savannah is expanding to handle more cargo and an increasing population, which will lead to more people and freight on freeways and associated safety risks, according to The (Macon) Telegraph.

Experiment To Keep Trucks Separated From Cars

The newspaper reported the state is considering the creation of barrier-separated northbound lanes for trucks that would begin at Interstate 475 and continue on the inside of Interstate 75 to George State Route 155 in McDonough. The lanes possibly could extend as far as Interstate 675.

These truck-only lanes would be the first of their kind on a large scale, covering at least 38 miles and costing about $2.06 billion.

Georgia's plan would put the concept of separate truck-only, no-toll lanes "much farther down an unexplored road than other states," The Telegraph reported. "States from the East Coast to the West have studied truck-only lanes, but there are only a few limited stretches of non-tolled, barrier-separated lanes."

Helps Relieve Traffic Congestion, Too

Georgia Department of Transportation Planning Director Jay Roberts told The Telegraph, "This is as much about congestion relief in the (general purpose) lanes and safety as it is truck lanes. When you take your semis out of the general purpose lane and put them in barrier-separated lanes, your roads are going to become safer, but you're also relieving that congestion in those lanes."

Officials with GDOT also are considering other highway improvement options to help with freight transportation. They have developed a Georgia Statewide Freight Logistics Plan for 2010 through 2050. A portion of the improvements included in the plan are categorized as highway safety projects.

In a report published as a part of the logistics plan, officials analyzed truck-involved crashes. Researchers identified head-on collisions involving trucks as the most severe vehicle crashes. Highways in smaller urban and rural areas - where there are no median barriers separating opposing traffic flows - are particular problem areas.

"Improving median barriers at strategic locations is one possible consideration on those freight corridors," the report states.

A joint report by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and the National Cooperative Freight Research Program, titled the "Separation of Vehicles - CMV-only Lanes," discusses the various methods of separation to isolate truck traffic from that of other motor vehicles. Different approaches include exclusive truck lanes (ETLs), nonexclusive truck lanes and dual-dual roadways.

"ETLs physically separate truck lanes from general purpose highway lanes either through the construction of barriers or through grade-separated structures," the report states. "By completely separating trucks and autos, they minimize weaving and maximize safety benefits."

ETLs often use separate on- and off-ramps.

Separation can be obtained through the use of median strips, tunnels, pavement markings, traffic pylons or elevated sections. According to the report, rumble strips are commonly used to mark separation in nonexclusive truck lanes.

These different barrier systems have various pros and cons related to them in terms of cost, access, design specifications, enforcement and public perception. Individual communities or states have to weigh these pros and cons to determine which method will best meet their needs and the values of their citizens.

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