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Section 6: Determining Length of Need of Barrier

Overview

The shape of the obstacle, its location with respect to travel lanes, the volume of traffic and its
corresponding clear zone width are the primary variables influencing length of barrier need.

Variables

After all practical means to free the roadside of obstacles have been exhausted, certain areas may
remain which constitute an obstacle to errant vehicles. These areas, as illustrated in Figure A-6,
will be referred to an “area of concern.”

Figure A-6. Areas of Concern

Figure A-6 illustrates the variables of interest in the layout of approach barrier to shield an area
of concern. Length of need is equal to the sum of the following variables:

 length of upstream barrier, Lu,


 length of barrier parallel to the area of concern, Lp,
 the length of downstream barrier, Ld.

Lu is the length of guard fence needed to protect traffic adjacent to proposed guard fence.
Upstream refers to the guard fence upstream of traffic adjacent to proposed guard fence. While
Ld is the length of guard fence needed to protect the opposing traffic. For roadways serving one-
way traffic operations, Ld = 0. Ld is greater than zero for two-way operations when the area of
concern lies within the clear zone of opposing (northbound in Figure A-6) traffic as measured
from the centerline pavement markings.
Figure A-7. Variables Involved in Barrier Layout. Click here to see a PDF of the image.

In certain instances judgment should be exercised to supplement design chart solutions and
provide for public safety. For example, high severity fixed objects (e.g., bridge columns) may
justify minimum guard fence treatment where located slightly outside the clear zone if geometric
conditions (i.e., steep fill slope, outside of horizontal curvature, etc.) increase the likelihood of
roadside encroachments.

Design Equations

To determine needed length of guard fence for a given obstacle, design equations have been
formulated for low volume (ADT 750 or less) and higher volume (ADT more than 750)
conditions. A clear zone width of 16 ft [4.9 m] and length of roadside travel of 200 ft [61 m] are
incorporated in the low volume design equation (for use on roadways when the present ADT
volume is 750 or less). Also, if the clear zone required is less than 16 ft [4.9 m] and the present
ADT is 750 or less, use Equation A-1 for calculating the guard fence length of need.

Table A-2: Equations for Upstream and Downstream Length of Need

ADT < 750

Equation A-1.
Equation A-2.

Equation A-3.
ADT > 750

Equation A-4.

Where:

 Lu = Length of guard fence needed (upstream of area of concern), ft


 Ld = Length of guard fence needed (downstream of area of concern), ft
 Du = Distance from edge of travel lane to far side of area of concern or to outside edge of
clear zone, whichever is least, ft (for upstream direction of traffic)
 Dd = Distance from edge of travel lane to far side of area of concern or to outside edge of
clear zone, whichever is least, ft (for opposing direction of traffic)
 Gu = Guard fence offset from edge of travel lane adjacent to proposed guard fence, ft
 Gd = Guard fence offset from edge of opposing direction of travel lane (centerline)

Click here for Metric.

For low volume conditions, if the clear zone width (16 ft [4.9 m]) is met or exceeded, L=0.

For higher volumes, a clear zone width of 30 ft [9 m] and length of roadside travel of 250 ft [76
m] are incorporated into the design equation (for use on roadways when the present ADT volume
is more than 750 or the recommended clear zone is greater than 16 ft [4.9 m]):

For high volume conditions, if the clear zone width (30 ft [9 m]) is met or exceeded, L=0.

The length of need for guard fence, as illustrated below in equation A-5, is equal to the sum of
the required upstream length (Lu), the guard fence length parallel to the area of concern Lp, and
the required downstream length.
Equation A-5.

Where:

Ltotal = Length of guard fence needed

Lu = Guard fence Length Upstream of Area of Concern

Lp = Guard fence Length Parallel to Area of Concern

Ld = Guard fence length Downstream from area of concern

Using Design Equations to Determine Length of Guard Fence

Before determining length of guard fence, the designer should assemble the following pertinent
data:

 present ADT volume


 clear zone (horizontal clearance)
 traffic operations (one-way or two-way)
 lateral and longitudinal dimension of the area of concern
 shoulder width
 offset distance of the area of concern from the edge of travel lane (including from the
centerline markings for two-way traffic operations)
 design slope conditions, (i.e. will slopes be 1V:10H or flatter?)
 placement location (alongside shoulder vs. near object, flared, etc.)
 presence of other nearby areas of concern which should be considered simultaneously.

Once this design data has been assembled, the appropriate equation can be used.

Where the prescribed length of the guard fence cannot be installed at a bridge end due to an
intervening access point such as an intersecting roadway or driveway, the length of guard fence
may be interrupted or reduced. This change in length is acceptable only in locations where the
Department must meet the obligation to provide access and this access cannot be reasonably
relocated. Alternative treatments in these situations include wrapping the guard fence around the
radius of the access location, terminating the guard fence prior to the access location with an
appropriate end treatment and continuing the guard fence beyond the access location if necessary
or using an alternate bridge end treatment. The selected treatment should consider potential sight
line obstructions, cost and maintenance associated with the selected treatment and any accident
history at the site. Reduced guard fence length to accommodate access points will not require a
design exception or a design waiver.
The Example Problems section provides example problems and solutions using the design
equations. The guard fence lengths produced by the equations should be rounded up to an even
length of guard fence.

http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/rdw/determining_length_of_need_of_barriers.htm

http://onlinemanuals.txdot.gov/txdotmanuals/rdw/example_problems.htm

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Section 7: Example Problems
Example Problem 1

Given: A rural two-lane collector highway containing 6 ft [1.8 m] wide shoulders and a current
ADT of 500 is illustrated in Figure A-8. The area of concern is a 16 ft [4.9 m] design clear zone
that includes 1V:2H side slopes on a 10 ft [3 m] high embankment section that is 125 ft [38 m] in
length alongside the highway.
Figure A-8. Example 1 Problem Layout Rural Low Volume. Click here to see a PDF of the
image.

Solution: From the information above and referring to Figure A-1 it is determined that a “rail is
needed.” As shown in Equation A-5, the length of need is Ltotal = Lu+Lp+Ld. From the given
information, Lp = 125 ft [38 m]. Because the ADT is less than 750, Equations A-1 and A-2 are
used to solve for Lu and Ld , respectively (if necessary).

For the upstream direction, the area of concern is the full (16 ft [4.9 m]) clear zone width and the
guard fence offset (Gu) is 6 ft [1.8 m]. Substituting in Equation A-1.

(US Customary):

Click here for metric.

A placement of guard fence alongside the 6 ft [1.8 m]-wide shoulder results in Lu = 125 ft [38
m].

Referring to figure A-8, the length of guard fence needed in the downstream is zero because the
offset distance from the edge of the travel lane (centerline marking) to the area of concern is
greater than the design clear zone (17 ft [5.1 m] greater than 16 ft [4.9 m]). Therefore, Ld is zero.

The design placement is shown in Figure A-9 including 125 ft [38 m] of guard fence adjacent to
the obstacle plus 125 ft [38 m] shielding traffic adjacent to proposed guard fence upstream of the
obstacle. These lengths of need do not include end treatments.
Figure A-9. Example 1 Problem Solution Guard fence Layout

Example Problem 2

Given: A rural two-lane arterial highway containing a shoulder width of 8 ft [2.4 m] and a
current ADT of 3500 is illustrated in Figure A-10. The areas of concern are bridge bents located
5 ft [1.5 m] from the edge of shoulder. The side slopes are 1V:6H.
Figure A-10. Example 2 Problem Layout Rural High Volume.

Solution: Referring to Table A-1: General Applications of Conditions for Roadside Barriers
bridge piers within the clear zone (30 ft [9 m] in this case) indicates guard fence placement for
the north side of the roadway displayed in Figure A-10. As shown in Equation A-5 the length of
need is Ltotal = Lu+Lp+Ld. Therefore, Lp is 34 ft [10.4 m] from the given (see Figure A-10)
information. Because the ADT is greater than 750, Equations A-3 and A-4 are used to find Lu
and Ld (if necessary), respectively:

(US Customary):

Click here for metric.

Substituting in the equation, the upstream length (Lu) is 116.5 ft [35.5 m] if placement is at the
shoulder edge.

The downstream (westbound traffic) length of guard fence is also determined by substituting into
Equation A-4:

(US Customary):

Click here for metric.

Ld is 65 ft [19.7 m] as shown above, based on the shoulder edge placement. For westbound
traffic, the centerline is the edge of the travel lane and thus guard fence offset (G) is 20 ft [6 m]
(12 ft [3.6 m] lane plus 8 ft [2.4 m] shoulder) from the edge of the travel lane.

Total length of guard fence, Lu+Lp+Ld, thus is 116.5 ft [35.5 m] + 34 ft [10.4 m] + 65 ft [19.7 m]
or 215.5 ft [62.3 m]; or, rounded to an even length of guard fence, 225 ft [68.6m].

The solution for the south side of the roadway yields the same results, hence placement should
be as shown in Figure A-11.
Figure A-11. Example 2 Problem Solution Guard fence Layout. Click here to see a PDF of the
image.

Example Problem 3

Given: A divided (76 ft [22.8 m] median) highway with 4 ft [1.2 m] left and 10 ft [3.0 m] right
shoulder widths is illustrated in Figure A-12. The median slopes are 1V:10H, and the outside
side slopes are 1V:6H. The cross sectional design allows for the addition of a future lane on the
median side of the present lanes. The areas of concern are overhead sign bridge supports offset
25 ft [7.6 m] left and 18 ft [5.5 m] right from edge of the travel lanes as shown below. The ADT
is 10,000.
Figure A-12. Example 3 Problem Layout Divided Highway.

Solution: Crash cushions in lieu of guard fence should be considered, particularly for facilities
with higher than 10,000 ADT. For this example problem assume crash cushions are not cost
effective.

Because the median is sloped at 1V:10H, as shown in Figure A-12, guard fence may be placed
thereon (see Figure A-5,). Therefore place the guard fence such that the back of the posts are 5 ft
[1.5 m] in front of the median overhead sign bridge support to allow for deflection, i.e., 20 ft [6.0
m] from the edge of the travel lanes (including the 1.5 ft [0.5 m] from the back of the post to the
face of the rail).

Referring to Equation A-5, Ltotal = Lu+Lp+Ld. For one-way traffic operations, Ld=0; furthermore,
for the overhead sign bridge support Lp=0. Equation A-3 is used to find Lu because ADT is
greater than 750:

(US Customary):

Click here for metric.


Equation A-6

For the median side, Lu = 65 ft [20 m] (rounded to 75 ft [22.9 m] to conform to even lengths of
guard fence) based on parallel placement for the full length of need, and placement on the
1V:10H slope 5 ft [1.5 m] in front of the fixed object. In contrast, parallel placement at the
shoulder edge would have required over 200 ft [60 m] of guard fence.

For the right side of traffic, guard fence must be placed at the shoulder edge (Reference Figure
A-5). Substituting in Equation A-3 to determine Lu:

(US Customary):

Click here for metric.

Equation A-7

Using parallel placement for the entire length, Lu = 111 ft [34.5 m] (which should be rounded to
125 ft [38] to conform to even lengths of guard fence).

Using parallel placement for the entire length of guard fence for both the median and left side,
placement is as shown in Figure A-13.

Figure A-13. Example 3 Problem Solution Guard fence Layout.