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Interstate cables installed for safety get mixed reviews in Gallatin County

“Our deputies have to get to another spot up ahead to deploy the spikes,” said Sheriff Dan Springer. “We’ve seen that on some of our wrong-way drivers and every day on patrol.”
Posted at 8:22 PM, Apr 09, 2024

BOZEMAN — Last year, cable rails were installed on I-90 by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) for safety—to reduce crash impact and keep vehicles from crossing into oncoming traffic. But lately, they’ve been looking damaged and beat up.

“We knew that installing the cable rail fence was going be a large maintenance item, but it was also going be a large safety improvement,” said Montana Department of Transportation Maintenance Chief Ted Jones.

You can see them lining I-90 for 40 miles, starting in Bozeman, and stretching all the way to Three Forks.

Jones says they do their job well.

“Holding vehicles into the median and keeping that crossover from happening,” said Jones.

In fact, according to MDT’s records, 48 vehicles crashed into the cable barriers between Bear Canyon and Highway 287 from September 2023 to March 31 of this year.

Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer says now, with the cables installed, even a simple slide-off in snowy conditions can significantly damage your vehicle.

“So, there’s a little bit of give and take to all of this—it’s hard for us,” said Springer.

Springer says the cable rails prevent law enforcement from crossing through the median in an emergency.

“Our deputies have to get to another spot up ahead to deploy the spikes,” said Springer. “We’ve seen that on some of our wrong-way drivers and every day on patrol.”

Driving along I-90 you can see portions of the cable rail are missing or reduced to crumbled-up bits of metal. Jones says average repair costs come in at anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

“We repair them daily as we can, but they get hit daily,” said Jones. “I don’t know if they’ll all be repaired before there’s more taken out.”

But in the meantime, Jones wants to remind the public that safety is their top priority.

“Just know the conditions before you head out,” said Jones. “Avoid driving distracted or impaired.”