Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrail and end terminals, once a primary choice by the California Department of Transportation for use on many of the state's 396,000 miles of roadways, will no longer be purchased by the agency, according to a spokesman.
Matt Rocco, Media Relations Manager for Caltrans told NBC 7 Investigates, his agency will replace the ET-Plus guardrails currently on roadways throughout the state “as needed.”
“If there is a section of roadway under construction or an incident, they will be replaced with another type of guardrail,” he said.
Trinity manufactures guardrails lining highways across the country. Last year it was ordered to pay millions in damages and penalties under the federal False Claims Act for defrauding the federal government by making false statements about the changes it made to the ET-Plus.
The changes, according to lawsuits and complaints against the highway manufacturing heavyweight, based in Texas, cause the guardrail to perform improperly. Trinity is appealing the verdict in the False Claims Act case and has always maintained their guardrails meet federal standards.
Rocco told NBC 7 Investigates, Caltrans is “moving towards more rigorous testing of its safety devices” through its membership in American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). This quasi-government agency provides research and guidelines for testing of highway safety equipment.
Click here to see where Trinity ET-Plus guardrails are located in San Diego County.
In a recent settlement between the guardrail manufacturer and the Federal Highway Administration the FHWA agreed not to pursue legal action against Trinity.
According to the settlement, the agreement was made “in the best interest of the Government,” with Trinity not admitting any wrongdoing or liability. The agreement requires Trinity to hire a compliance officer to implement a compliance program in connection with Trinity’s submitting requests to the FHWA for letters authorizing the eligibility of roadside safety hardware for Federal-aid reimbursement and an independent monitor for that compliance program for a period of three years. In addition, the company has to create a guardrail tracking program in at least one state that would include information on who made the guardrail, who installed it and what maintenance was performed.
Click here to read the complete settlement.