DOT continuing to replace rustic guardrails

WARRENSBURG-The state's ongoing effort to retire the familiar but problematical rustic highway guardrails in the Adirondacks continues to make progress as contractors are replacing the brown rusty rails with galvanized steel.

This past week, workmen were installing new gleaming guardrail along the Northway, among other chosen locations along highways in the Adirondacks.

Once touted as an environmental innovation, the rusty rails are now out of favor with the state Department of Transportation. Although the material was once envisioned as an environmental innovation - it never needs to be painted because it oxidizes to a pleasant weathered hue - the guardrails made of the exotic material have been failing prematurely.

DOTspokeswoman Carol Breen said Tuesday that about 73 miles or 386,000 feet of rustic rail have been replaced, or will be by the end of this summer in the agency's Region 1 which spans Warren, Essex, Saratoga, and Greene counties. About 96 miles or 507,616 feet of rail will remain to be replaced in this area. DOT has estimated that the replacement effort will total 2 million feet of guardrail statewide when it's complete, and cost in excess of $140 million.

Years ago, the rustic brown guardrails, made of an expensive oxidizing alloy Core-Ten, were installed by the state along highways primarily in the Adirondacks and Catskills while they blended in well with the scenery. They were expected to rust on the surface, creating a barrier that would block further corrosion so they wouldn't need painting.

But these rustic oxidized rails - that were supposed to last decades, have been only lasting a fraction of their expected lifespan. The galvanized guardrails, which many think look ugly, can last 40 to 50 years.

Breen said DOThas so far spent $14.2 million on the replacement project just within Region 1, and is likely to spend $25 million more, depending on the price of steel and prevailing labor. Guardrail replacement has been completed along the following stretches of highway: state Rte. 9 in the towns of Chester and Lake George; state Rte. 8 in the Town of Horicon; state Rte. 418 in Warrensburg; state Rte. 9L in Warren County; portions of 1-87 Northway in Warren and Essex counties; Rte. 912Q in the town of Lake George; state Rte. Route 74 in the town of Schroon; state Rte. 9 in the town of Lewis; state Rte. 9N in Moriah, Elizabethtown and Corinth; state Rte. 22 in Westport and Essex; state Rte. 73 in Keene; and state Rte. 86 in the towns of Wilmington and Saranac Lake.

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