According to sources, investigators from a public corruption and special prosecutions unit of the Justice Department are interviewing witnesses and have subpoenaed documents from a court battle involving the Trinity ET-Plus.
State transportation officials and a whistleblower first raised concerns about the safety of the ET-Plus in 2012. The shock-absorbing ET-Plus is a “safety feature” installed on the end of the guardrail. It is supposed to absorb the impact of an oncoming car and deflect the guardrail away.
In 2012, a whistleblower accused Trinity of re-designing the ET-Plus without seeking federal approval. Those design changes saved money on materials, but may have made the ET-Plus more likely to jam up and impale vehicles. At least eight deaths are blamed on the problem.
Though aware of the allegations, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) stood by its approval of the system and maintained a “close” relationship with Trinity, according to Bloomberg. The FHWA approval of the guardrail was critical for states to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for purchasing the ET-Plus.
Trinity’s cozy relationship with federal authorities was highlighted by an “aggressive lobbying blitz.” in which Trinity became one of the nation’s top donors to attorney general political causes.
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