Niagara Peninsula drivers are the beneficiaries of one of the newest pieces of crash barrier technology in the world following the installation of the Italian-made Hercules Crash Cushion at the Thorold Tunnel on Highway 58.
It was the world’s first-ever installation of the Hercules, manufactured by SMA of Caserta, Italy and distributed in Canada by Pen80 Products of Fonthill, Ont. The job was part of a Ministry of Transportation tunnel rehabilitation contract with Peninsula Construction performing the installation on June 3.
Pen80 vice-president Jamie West said the Hercules, built of exceptionally strong galvanized steel, has a narrow footprint and is compact, making it a good fit for the Thorold tunnel site configuration. The Hercules sits about 100 metres away from the tunnel at a break in the concrete wall that divides the highway, protecting the barrier and preventing collisions with the end of the wall.
“One of the great things about our Hercules system is it’s very robust and it’s an all-steel design,” explained West, noting other barriers contain plastic that can shred and litter the site on impact.
“It doesn’t allow for plastic to go flying in debris, it keeps within itself, which is a great improvement on a system like this when you have an accident. If the maintenance crews have to go out there’s less maintenance and cleanup.”
The Hercules was supplied pre-assembled, allowing for quick installation, West said.
“We drop the system on the ground, we mark the holes for the system and then we lift the system back up. We pre-drill all the holes and then the system is reinstalled on top of the pre-drilled holes and then we continue with the anchoring of the system,” she explained.
Impact attenuators are designed to absorb the colliding vehicle’s kinetic energy. The Hercules is “non-gating,” West said, meaning it is not designed to steer the colliding vehicle into another zone.
“The idea of it is, it’s supposed to be for head-on impact, and it should stop a vehicle and slow it down, versus a gating system that creates a big gate and allows it to enter into the clear zone.”
The product was approved by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) under its Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) standards for roadside safety hardware adopted in 2009. The MTO has approved a series of barrier devices during the MASH era, said West, attempting to encourage innovation and competition in the sector while increasing safety.
“MTO has quite a few different energy attenuators,” she said. “The great thing about the MTO is they are constantly looking for different products to allow for a very competitive industry. We often come to them with new product ideas and if it meets their criteria and all of the testing is there, they’re very open to broadening the marketplace and allowing other products to be out there to allow installers to have a variety of products they can pull from.”
It’s a process necessitated in part by changes in the design of vehicles, West explained.
“Cars have changed, vehicles, their weights have changed. If you look at where the bumper of the truck sits today versus 20 years ago, trucks sit higher, so you know guide ropes that used to be installed at a certain level are now too low for the vehicles that sit higher so some of the innovation comes with the changing of vehicles, the changing of road designs.
“So I guess there’s always room for improvement.”
SMA CEO Roberto Impero said in a statement his firm is “honoured to contribute to the MTO’s efforts to lead in roadside safety.”
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