VDOT approved the ET-Plus terminals in 2000. Around 2005, Trinity Industries modified the design without telling anyone. Critics say those design changes made the guardrail more likely to lock up and impale oncoming cars in a head-on crash. VDOT was not aware of the changes until 2013.
State officials are working with an independent testing facility, Karco Engineering, LLC. They are performing the tests “for the sole purpose of trying to make sure that we do the very best that we can to make our highways as safe as possible.”
Trinity accused Virginia of using arbitrary tests to “support its litigation agenda and with the specific intent to make the product fail.”
In January 2015, a series of eight crash-tests were completed at a facility in San Antonio by a former business partner of Trinity Industries. State officials and media were given only limited access — not allowed to measure the guardrails, take video, or photographs. Only federal highway officials were given such access.
The guardrails “passed” all eight tests — though on the eighth test, the guardrail buckled and a sharp elbow severely damaged the door of the car. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) says no further testing is necessary. Many safety advocates disagree, and point to shady lobbying efforts between Trinity and the FHWA since the scandal broke in 2012. The Justice Department has been investigating the relationship since April.
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