What is a Highway Barrier?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Highway barriers are barricades that are used in many roadway systems to separate lanes or groups of lanes. A highway barrier is sometimes employed as a means of creating a barrier between a road and ditches, ravines, or other roadside elements that would be dangerous if a vehicle left the road. In addition to use as a safety measure, these types of barricades can also be used to enhance local scenery as well as reduce the noise level around busy highways.

Several different types of highway barriers are used along roads. Simple metal barriers have been in use for decades and are normally low-lying sections of metal that run along the side of the road or highway. Because a metal barrier is relatively short, it does not tend to interfere with the view of the surrounding countryside. At the same time, the metal barrier is strong enough to prevent cars and smaller pickup trucks from running off the road and possibly flipping down a ravine.

Along with the metal barriers, the masonry highway barrier is often utilized along multiple lane highways. Barriers of this type may be used to divide the lanes into two distinct sections, with traffic on one set flowing in one direction while the traffic in the second section flows in the opposite direction. These barriers tend to be reinforced and somewhat taller than the metal types, making it difficult for vehicles to cross into lanes and directly in the path of oncoming traffic.


A third type of highway barrier is considered to be a more environmentally friendly approach, as well as one that is more esthetically pleasing. An earthen barrier builds up the area between lanes or on the sides of roads and serves as an effective means of keeping vehicles on the highway and away from any possible dangers found off the roads. Highway barricades of this type can be landscaped to fit into the surrounding countryside, making their presence seem almost natural.

All forms of the highway barrier are more than just a safety measure. In many cases, they are employed to help muffle the sounds that originate from busy highways. Because the noise level can become quite high during periods of heavy traffic, the presence of the barriers is essential in keeping the noise from disturbing people who live near the roads, as well as minimize the impact on any wildlife that are found in wooded areas near the roads.

The selection of the type of highway barrier to use along a given stretch of road is normally determined by civil engineers who are part of a local, state, or national highway department. Factors such as the number of lanes, the surrounding terrain, average human population in the area, and the amount of traffic on the road all play a part in determining which type of barrier would be most effective.


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