Utility Poles

Description of Strategies

Objectives

The initial objective of good roadway design, maintenance, and operation is to keep vehicles on the road and in their respective lanes. Motorists will not purposely move onto the shoulder unless an emergency occurs and they need to pull over to slow or stop their vehicle. However, errant vehicles may encroach upon the shoulder and then upon the roadside, sometimes ending in a run-off-road (ROR) crash. This guide specifically addresses the incidents in which a vehicle leaves the roadway for any number of reasons and strikes a pole on the roadside. The reader may find information concerning ROR crashes, crashes at high-crash curves, and trees in high-crash locations in other related emphasis area guides.

To reduce the number and severity of crashes involving utility poles, luminaire poles, traffic signal supports, and other poles and supports (the terms “pole crash” and “utility pole crash” are interchangeable), the objectives include

  • Reduce the hazard of specific utility poles in high-crash and high-risk locations,

  • Prevent placing utility poles in high-risk locations, and

  • Minimize the likelihood of crashing into a utility pole when vehicles run off the road.

This emphasis area is specifically identified in Goal 16 of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, Minimizing the Consequences of Leaving the Road. Utility pole crashes are a subset of ROR crashes. The guide for Emphasis Area 15.1 addresses the general subject of ROR crashes and covers strategies aimed at reducing the consequences of ROR crashes by (1) keeping vehicles from leaving the roadway and (2) reducing the severity of impacts after leaving the roadway. Ideally, preventing the vehicle from leaving the roadway and staying in its appropriate lane is preferred. The reader should refer to the other guide for strategies for keeping the vehicle on the roadway. This briefing paper focuses on reducing the harm in utility pole crashes after encroachment on the roadside has occurred—strategies such as removing or relocating specific utility poles, placing utilities underground, and reducing the severity of collisions by shielding motorists from utility poles.

Utility pole crashes are fixed-object crashes that involve vehicles leaving the traveled way, encroaching on the roadside, and striking a utility pole. Utility poles are one of the more substantial and most common objects that are intentionally placed on the roadside. They are substantial in both their sheer number and their rigidity (each one representing a significant fixed-object hazard). The only object type more frequently struck in fatal fixed-object crashes is a tree.1 Because of the structural strength and small impact area of utility poles, these crashes tend to be severe.

The adverse safety effects of utility poles extend beyond the ROR crash type. Utility poles can also contribute to the severity of other crash types. Crashes are often categorized by “first harmful event.” There are many crashes not classified as ROR, or fixed-object, crashes, where one or more vehicles strike a utility pole. In these cases, striking the utility pole is a secondary event that may be as severe as, or more severe than, the first harmful event. Crashes involving utility poles as secondary events easily go unnoticed when accident reports only identify the first harmful event.

This emphasis area deals with utility pole crashes, which involve vehicles that leave the traveled way, encroach onto the shoulder and roadside, and strike a utility pole or guy wire. It is also recommended that problem-identification analyses include crashes where a vehicle strikes a utility pole as a secondary event. (One may argue that the only reason these vehicles strike a pole is because of the initial event causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. A rebuttal to this argument is that most vehicles that strike utility poles are out of control for some reason, because reasonable drivers do not purposefully run into fixed objects. In any event, the presence or absence of a pole will usually have a measurable effect on the severity of injuries.)

Agencies may face many challenges in developing a pole safety program. One will be investigating the consequences of pole crashes, regardless of the culpability of the operators of the vehicles that strike the poles. Failing to investigate and evaluate treatment of these conditions is not a cost-effective strategy. In fact, the “do nothing” option is often the more costly approach, even when neglecting the potential liability cost, which could be considerable.2

Exhibit V-1 lists the objectives and several related strategies for reducing the consequences and frequency of utility pole crashes. It does not list all possible strategies to reduce the frequency and severity of utility pole crashes. For example, many strategies that focus on keeping vehicles on the roadway are not listed, but they would be very effective in reducing utility pole crashes. The reader may refer to the guides that specifically address the ROR crash issue for details on these strategies. These strategies can be applied in the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operation phases.

Given the objectives of AASHTO's Strategic Highway Safety Plan, this guide is focused on lower-cost strategies that can be implemented relatively quickly. This implies strategies that are focused upon “spots” (poles or pole lines) or small areas of the roadway. For perspective, though, note that it has taken decades (probably more than a century in some states and cities) to place the millions of poles along roadsides. For this reason, states and other agencies should also consider including long-term strategies to make gradual improvement in locations with less urgent or demonstrated needs. This will eventually lead to minimizing the overall occurrence of pole crashes.

EXHIBIT V-1
Emphasis Area Objectives and Strategies

Objectives

Strategies

16.2 A Treat specific utility poles in high-crash and high-risk spot locations.

16.2 A1 Remove poles in hazardous locations.(P)

16.2 A2 Relocate poles in hazardous locations further from the roadway or to a less vulnerable location.(P)

16.2 A3 Use breakaway poles.(T)

16.2 A4 Shield drivers from poles in hazardous locations.(P)

16.2 A5 Improve the drivers’ ability to see poles in hazardous locations.(E)

16.2 A6 Apply traffic calming measures to reduce speeds on high-risk sections.(T)

16.2 B Prevent placing utility poles in high-risk locations.

16.2 B1 Develop, revise, and implement policies to prevent placing or replacing poles within the recovery area.(T)

16.2 C Treat several utility poles along a corridor to minimize the likelihood of crashing into a utility pole if a vehicle runs off the road.

16.2 C1 Place utilities underground.(P)

16.2 C2 Relocate poles along the corridor farther from the roadway and/or to less vulnerable locations.(P)

16.2 C3 Decrease the number of poles along the corridor.(P)

Explanation of Strategy Types

The strategies in this guide were identified from a number of sources, including a literature review, contact with state and local agencies throughout the United States, and federal programs. Some of the strategies are widely used, while others are used at a state or even a local level. Some strategies have been subjected to well-designed evaluations to prove their effectiveness. However, many strategies, including some that are widely used, have not been adequately evaluated.

The implication of the widely varying experience with these strategies, as well as the range of knowledge about their effectiveness, is that the reader should be prepared to exercise caution in many cases, before adopting a particular strategy for implementation. To help the reader, the strategies have been classified into three types, each identified by letter throughout the guide:

Proven (P): Those strategies that have been used in one or more locations and for which properly designed evaluations have been conducted that show it to be effective. These strategies may be employed with a good degree of confidence, but any application can lead to results that vary significantly from those found in previous evaluations. The attributes of the strategies that are provided will help the user make judgments on which is the most appropriate for the particular situation.

Tried (T): Those strategies that have been implemented in a number of locations and that may even be accepted as standards or standard approaches, but for which there have not been found valid evaluations. These strategies, while in frequent or even general use, should be applied with caution, carefully considering the attributes cited in the guide and relating them to the specific conditions for which they are being considered. Implementation can proceed with some degree of assurance that there is not likely to be a negative impact on safety and very likely to be a positive one. It is intended that as the experiences of implementation of these strategies continues under the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan initiative, appropriate evaluations will be conducted so that effectiveness information can be accumulated to provide better estimating power for the user and so that the strategy can be upgraded to a “proven” one.

Experimental (E): Those strategies that are ideas that have been suggested and that at least one agency has considered sufficiently promising to try on a small scale in at least one location. These strategies should be considered only after the others have proven not to be appropriate or feasible. Even where they are considered, their implementation should initially occur using a very controlled and limited pilot study that includes a properly designed evaluation component. Only after careful testing and evaluations show the strategy to be effective should broader implementation be considered. It is intended that as the experiences of such pilot tests are accumulated from various state and local agencies, the aggregate experience can be used to further detail the attributes of this type of strategy so that it can be upgraded to a “proven” one.

Targeting the Objectives

The first objective addresses locations that are exhibiting multiple crashes or that are recognized as high-risk locations. The application of these strategies is generally limited to a single pole or a few poles. For example, one pole on the outside of a horizontal curve can be moved to a less exposed location on the inside of the same curve. The target of the second objective is new utility poles placed along the roadway or poles that require relocation to accommodate a 3R3 or other roadway project, including minor widening. In addition, the second objective targets poles that will be replaced when utility companies periodically reconstruct their facilities. The last objective targets utility poles along longer sections of roadway where crashes are spread out along the corridor and not clustered in a small number of poles.

For any strategy to work, it is important for partnering, communication, coordination, and cooperation between the utility companies and highway agencies. It is important for all these agencies to work as a team by sharing information on crashes and claims, conducting joint field visits, and taking a proactive approach in addressing utility pole crashes. For example, AmerenUE, a major utility company in Missouri, and Missouri DOT are working together to identify and develop procedures involving improvements to locations where utility poles are experiencing vehicle collisions (see Appendix 1). Florida DOT, through its partnership with utility companies for many years, has developed a utility accommodation manual that regulates the location, manner, installation, and adjustment of utility facilities along, across, or on any transportation facility under the jurisdiction of Florida DOT (see Appendix 2). Pennsylvania DOT is working with the utility companies in developing a master agreement that, if ratified, will allow Pennsylvania DOT to pay for a portion of the cost of relocating a utility pole that is determined to be in a hazardous location (see Appendix 3). It is in the best interest of the utility companies to work with the highway agencies to develop a plan to reduce utility pole crashes and to reduce the liability of these crashes.

Related Strategies for Creating a Truly Comprehensive Approach

The strategies listed above are considered unique to this emphasis area. However, to create a truly comprehensive approach to the highway safety problems associated with this emphasis area, related strategies may be included as candidates in any program planning process. There are five candidate types:

  • Public Information and Education (PI&E) Programs—Many highway safety programs can be effectively enhanced with a properly designed PI&E campaign. The primary goal of PI&E campaigns in highway safety is to modify the behavior of an audience across an entire jurisdiction, or a significant part of it. However, it may be desired to focus a PI&E campaign on a location-specific problem. While this is a relatively untried approach, as compared with areawide campaigns, use of roadside signs and other experimental methods may be tried on a pilot basis. In general, PI&E campaigns do not directly reduce crashes involving poles. One related instance in which PI&E campaigns may be effective involves persuading the utility companies to understand the issue and their part in finding a solution. There are, however, appropriate additional PI&E programs for related strategies dealing with such problems as speed control, driving under the influence (DUI), and seatbelt usage. Each of these programs can help reduce the incidence and/or severity of crashes involving utility poles. As additional guides are completed for the AASHTO plan, they may address the details regarding PI&E strategy design and implementation.

  • Enforcement of Traffic Laws—Well-designed and -operated law enforcement programs can have a significant effect on highway safety. It is well established, for instance, that an effective way to reduce crashes and their severity is to have jurisdictionwide programs that enforce an effective law against DUI or driving without seatbelts. While the effectiveness of speeding enforcement programs is less well documented, it may be appropriate to apply such a program to reduce incidents of vehicles running off the road, and ultimately into utility poles. When the law is vigorously enforced with well-trained officers, the frequency and severity of highway crashes can be significantly reduced. This should be an important element in any comprehensive highway safety program. Enforcement programs, by the nature of how they must be performed, are conducted at specific locations. The effect (e.g., lower speeds, greater use of seatbelts, and reduced impaired driving) may occur at or near the specific location where the enforcement is applied. This effect can often be enhanced by coordinating the effort with an appropriate PI&E program. However, in many cases (e.g., speeding and seatbelt usage) the impact is areawide or jurisdictionwide. The effect can be either positive (i.e., the desired reductions occur over a greater part of the system) or negative (i.e., the problem moves to another location as road users move to new routes where enforcement is not applied). Where it is not clear how the enforcement effort may impact behavior, or where it is desired to try an innovative and untried method, a pilot program is recommended. The application of enforcement programs is not anticipated to be directly applicable to the strategies in this guide. However, as noted above, the use of enforcement is appropriate for complementary strategies. As additional guides are completed for the AASHTO plan, they may address the details regarding the design and implementation of enforcement strategies.

  • Strategies to Improve Emergency Medical and Trauma System Services—Treatment of injured parties at highway crashes can have a significant impact on the injury severity and the length of time an individual spends in treatment. This is especially true when it comes to timely and appropriate treatment of severely injured persons. Thus, a basic part of a highway safety infrastructure is a well-structured and comprehensive emergency care program. While the types of strategies that are included here are often thought of as simply support services, they can be critical to the success of a comprehensive highway safety program. Therefore, for this emphasis area, an effort should be made to determine if improvements can be made to this aspect of the system, especially for programs that focus on location-specific (e.g., corridors) or area-specific (e.g., rural areas) issues. As additional guides are completed for the AASHTO plan, they may address the details regarding the design and implementation of emergency medical systems strategies.

  • Strategies Directed at Improving the Safety Management System—The management of the highway safety system is foundational to success. There should be in place a sound organizational structure, as well as an infrastructure of laws, policies, etc., to monitor, control, direct, and administer a comprehensive approach to highway safety. It is important that a comprehensive program not be limited to one jurisdiction, such as a state DOT. Local agencies often have the majority of the road system and its related safety problems to deal with. They also know, better than others do, what the problems are. As additional guides are completed for the AASHTO plan, they may address the details regarding the design and implementation of strategies for improving safety management systems. When that occurs, the appropriate links will be added from this emphasis area guide.

  • Strategies Detailed in Other Emphasis Area Guides—Any program targeted at the safety problem covered in this emphasis area should give due consideration to the inclusion of other applicable strategies covered in the following guides:

Objective 16.2 A—Treat Specific Utility Poles in High-Crash and High-Risk Spot Locations

Strategy 16.2 A1: Remove Poles in High-Crash Locations (P)

General Description

This strategy targets specific poles located in high-crash locations. The locations would have a history of pole crashes (responsive) or are in locations where the risk of future pole crashes is likely (proactive). The locations may be identified through the crash database or utility maintenance records. In these cases, the identification process is a responsive approach, but a very good place to start, assuming that location descriptions are adequate to locate the specific pole or poles. Conducting safety audits on roadways and identifying poles that are in high-risk locations is a proactive approach.

When investigating locations with a history of utility pole crashes, an important question that should be asked is, “Is this pole necessary?” If the answer is no, then remove the pole. In some cases, the utility may have abandoned the pole and the pole no longer serves a purpose. While these cases are obvious, the difficulty begins when the pole actually has a purpose, whether the purpose is for utilities, street lighting, or another reason. The next question is “Is there another way to serve the same need while removing the poles from the high-crash location?” If the answer is yes, then consider removing the poles and relocating the function of the pole as a countermeasure for treating the location.

EXHIBIT V-2
Series of Unnecessary Utility Poles
These unnecessary poles carry a single power cable for the pedestrian signal. The conduit hat provides power to the luminaire poles placed further from the road could have also provided service to the signal.

Exhibit 2

Exhibit V-2 shows poles close to the roadway that are not necessary. The purpose of these poles is to carry the power to one pedestrian-actuated signal. The power is provided from another signal approximately 1.4 mile from the pedestrian crossing. This location had a history of vehicles running off the road and striking poles, and the city relocated all the streetlights farther from the road. However, that project did not affect the poles serving the pedestrian signal because the state DOT owned these poles. These poles continued to be struck by vehicles but were unnecessary because the power for the pedestrian signal could have been provided via the same conduit used for the streetlights. As much as this is an example of an unnecessary pole too close to the roadway, it is also an example of why DOTs need to improve the communication between themselves and local agencies.

See Appendix 4 for an example of one state’s approach to relocating utilities to improve roadside safety.

EXHIBIT V-3
Strategy Attributes for Removing Select Poles (P)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles hit by drivers of errant vehicles at specific “spot” locations where there have been a history of pole crashes, or poles located in potentially high-risk locations, such as the outside of a curve, end of lane drops, and in traffic islands.

Expected Effectiveness

While this strategy does not prevent the vehicle leaving the roadway, it does provide a mechanism to reduce the severity of a resulting crash. If the pole is not there, then it cannot be struck. The effectiveness of the strategy in reducing the severity of the crash depends largely upon remaining conditions after the pole is removed. For example, if there are trees or other fixed objects remaining, then the impact may simply be transferred to another object type. If the shoulder is steep and contributes to vehicles overturning, then the problem is shifted to a different sequence of events without really improving the overall safety at the location.

Keys to Success

The keys to success include being able to identify locations and removing the appropriate poles.

An accurate and detailed safety information and maintenance record system is essential for this strategy to be feasible (see the description on page V-6 of “Strategies Directed at Improving the Safety Management System”). In the absence of such systems, one must rely on local knowledge and a monitoring process.

The use of standardized investigation forms and documentation for site investigations is important to provide the data for decision making. This helps ensure that site investigations are consistent across different regions and promotes rapid site evaluation.

Potential Difficulties

Utility pole crashes can induce a considerable amount of litigation. Well-documented investigations serve two purposes: (1) to help determine the best remedial action to take and (2) to provide documentation for actions taken or not taken.

On tangent sections of roadways where there are high frequencies of pole crashes, removing a pole may lead to the crashes migrating to the next available pole. In these cases, it is very important to understand why the vehicles are leaving the roadway in the first place. Refer to the ROR guide for specific strategies.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures include the number of sites investigated, the number of poles removed from the roadside, and the cost to remove the poles.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rates of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes should include all ROR, fixed-object crashes and any crashes involving poles at the specific site. Evaluations should consider the overall severity of the targeted crashes to determine that there was an actual safety improvement and not a problem transferal. To account for crashes migrating to the next available pole or other object, it is prudent to make the study area large enough to cover the problem area. If the study area is too small, then the crashes may have migrated beyond the boundaries and go undetected in the evaluation.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

Pole removal programs require regular participation of the utility companies, which own most of the poles. The utility companies should be involved at an early stage in the programs.

New or revised policies may be needed to ensure consistent and appropriate pole removal, as well as to facilitate cooperation with utility companies.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

Review time for utility companies may extend the implementation period to beyond a year.

Costs Involved

The cost of removing a single pole includes relocating all services carried on the pole, as well as removing the actual pole. Determining the financial responsibility of removing the pole is necessary. In some jurisdictions, if the pole is located on public right-of-way and becomes a hazard to the traveling public, then it is the responsibility of the pole owner to remove or relocate it.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

There may be situations where utility companies have rights regarding poles in public rights-of-way that allow the utility companies to ignore or reject requests for removal. Law changes may be appropriate where a more balanced and responsive relationship is desired.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

Strategy 16.2 A2: Relocate Poles in High-Crash Locations Farther from the Roadway and/or to less Vulnerable Locations (P)

General Description

This strategy targets specific poles located in high-crash locations, i.e., locations that have a history of pole crashes or that are placed where the risk of future pole crashes is likely. Highcrash locations are to include only poles considered necessary, i.e., poles for which no alternatives exist to provide the service carried by the poles.

FHWA's Program Guide: Utility Relocation and Accommodation on Federal-Aid Highway Projects, Sixth Edition—January 2003 (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/utilguid/if03014.pdf) states the following as one of the criteria for federal participation in utility relocation: “The utility relocation involves implementing safety corrective measures to reduce the roadside hazards of utility facilities to highway users.”

O'Day (1979) found in Michigan that vehicles are more likely to run off the road on the outside of curves than on the inside (see Exhibit V-4). This is also intuitive to any driver who has rounded a curve and experienced the centrifugal force. Therefore, it is reasonable that poles placed along the outside of curves are more likely to be struck by errant vehicles. Exhibit V-5 is a photograph of a high-speed rural road where utility poles have been placed less than 15 feet from the outside of a horizontal curve: these locations were found to be associated with frequent utility pole crashes due to vehicles running off the road. In the case of isolated curves immediately downstream from long tangent sections, relocating poles may be particularly important because these locations are susceptible to ROR crashes. There are two alternatives to support the poles: (1) with a small number of breakaway strain poles on the outside of the curve and (2) with compression struts on the inside of the curve.

EXHIBIT V-4
Curve Direction and Crash Frequency
Source: O'Day, 1979

Exhibit 4

EXHIBIT V-5
High-Speed Rural Road with Utility Poles Less than 15 Feet from the Edge of the Outside of a Horizontal Curve
This site has experienced several utility pole crashes due to vehicles running off the road.

Exhibit 5

Lane drops, intersections, and sections where the pavement narrows are locations where drivers may inadvertently leave the roadway. Exhibit V-6 shows an example of a pole in a vulnerable location after a lane drop. A similar situation may occur after widening the road surface for turn lanes or when the pavement narrows for other reasons. Exhibit V-7 shows a T-intersection that has experienced frequent collisions with utility poles because vehicles run off the road as they make a left turn.

In most cases, poles are not placed in the roadway. However, placing poles on traffic islands puts poles very close to the traveled way. Traffic islands serve purposes for channelization, directional separation, and placing small signs. Not only can poles interfere with drivers' line of sight, but also they are often in areas that may be traversed by errant vehicles. There are similar issues with placing poles in the medians of divided highways (see Exhibit V-8).

EXHIBIT V-6
Schematic Diagram of a Pole in a Vulnerable Location at the End of a Lane Drop
Source: Ivey and Mak, 1989, Photo: Lacy

Exhibit 6

EXHIBIT V-7
T-Intersection that Has Experienced Frequent Utility Pole Crashes when Left-Turning Vehicles Lose Control and Run Off the Road

Exhibit 7

See Appendix 4 for an example of one state's approach to relocating utilities to improve roadside safety.

EXHIBIT V-8
Schematic Diagram of Poles Placed in Vulnerable Locations on Traffic Islands and in a Median
Source: Ivey and Mak, 1989

Exhibit 8

EXHIBIT V-9
Strategy Attributes for Relocating Poles in High-Crash Locations (P)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles struck by errant vehicles at specific “spot” locations where there have been a history of pole crashes, or poles in locations such as the outside of a curve, end of lane drops, and in traffic islands.

Expected Effectiveness

Zegeer and Parker (1984) and Zegeer and Cynecki (1984) found that crashes decreased as the distance between the poles and the roadway increased. Large improvements were observed by moving the poles at least 10 feet from the roadway. As the offset4 was increased beyond 10 feet, the safety effects increased but at a slower rate. Exhibit V-9A shows the expected percent reduction in crashes (crash reduction factors) as poles are moved away from the roadway for ADT = 10,000 and pole density = 40 poles/mile. The crash reduction factors were not found to change significantly for different ADT and pole density values (crash reduction factors for different combinations of ADT and pole density are available from Zegeer and Cynecki, 1984).

The crash reduction factors shown in Exhibit V-9A assume no other roadside fixed objects apart from the utility poles. To account for the presence of other roadside objects, Zegeer and Cynecki (1984) developed roadside adjustment factors that are discussed in Appendix 5.


EXHIBIT V-9a
Schematic Diagram of Poles Placed in Vulnerable Locations on Traffic Islands and in a Median
Source: Ivey and Mak, 1989

Exhibit 9a

Keys to Success

An accurate and detailed safety information and maintenance record system is essential for this strategy to be feasible. In the absence of such systems, one must rely on local knowledge and a monitoring process.

The use of standardized investigation forms and documentation for site investigations is important to provide the data for decision making. This helps ensure that site investigations are consistent across different regions and promotes rapid site evaluation.

Potential Difficulties

If there are other nearby fixed objects in addition to the poles, relocating the poles may not have the desired effect if the other objects are not treated. In these cases, if the remaining objects continue to be involved in crashes, the expense of relocating the pole may not be justified. Transferring the object struck to another object type or crash type that is as severe is not an acceptable outcome.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures would include the number of sites investigated, the number of poles relocated, and the cost to relocate the poles.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes should include all ROR, fixed-object crashes and any crashes striking poles at the specific site. The impact should consider the overall severity of the target crashes to determine that there was an actual safety improvement and not a problem transferal. To account for crashes migrating to the next available pole or other object, it is prudent to make the study area large enough to cover the problem area. If the study area is too small, then the crashes may have migrated beyond the boundaries and go undetected in the evaluation.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

Pole relocation programs require a regular participation of the utility companies, which own most of the poles. The utility companies should be involved at an early stage in this program.

New or revised policies may be needed to ensure consistent and appropriate pole removal, as well as to facilitate cooperation with utility companies.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

Review time for utility companies may extend the implementation period to beyond a year.

Costs Involved

The cost of relocation of a single pole involves placing the pole in a new location, moving the utilities, and providing proper support for the poles.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

Strategy 16.2 A3: Use Breakaway Devices (T)5

General Description

This strategy targets specific poles located in high-crash locations where removing or relocating the poles is not feasible or cost-effective. The locations have a history of pole crashes or are in locations where the risk of future pole crashes is likely. The application of breakaway devices is directed at reducing the severity of the pole crashes. The unforgiving nature of a traditional utility pole contributes to the severity of the crash by causing vehicles to rapidly decelerate. Studies of non-breakaway poles show that about 31 percent of the poles are knocked down or severely damaged upon impact (Mak and Mason, 1980). This means that the vehicles striking the poles absorb a sizable amount of the energy (via the crush) created by the crash. Breakaway poles allow vehicles to pass through the pole and therefore do not require the vehicle to absorb as much energy. Breakaway poles are designed so that service will not be interrupted in the case of a crash.

While there are several designs and techniques for breakaway devices, only the steel reinforced safety pole was specifically designed for utility poles. The original design was funded by the FHWA and has gone through modifications. The latest design is called the AD IV (Ivey and Scott, 2004; Alberson and Ivey, 1994). For a depiction of the device, see Appendix 11. The criteria for applying breakaway devices are as follows:

  • The pole is located in the clear zone area.6

  • The alternatives for removing and relocating the poles are not practical because of right-of-way constraints, roadside environment, or economics.

  • The pole is a class 4–40 or smaller and does not have heavy devices attached.

  • There is a safe recovery area behind the pole, free of roadside hazards.

  • The pole is not located near a zone of significant pedestrian activity.

  • The final position of the pole and conductors (wires) should not create a hazard for pedestrians, other vehicles, and adjacent property owners.

In addition to utility poles, guy wires can reduce the recovery area and make the pole a larger target. The use of breakaway guy wires should be considered where guy wires are deemed necessary. Foster-Miller, Inc., under a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) study, designed, tested, and developed a protruded fiberglass link for a breakaway guy wire.7

UTD, Inc., also designed, tested, and developed four different versions of a steel link for a breakaway guy wire,8 also under an SBIR study. In the mid 1980s, the Texas Transportation Institute designed, crash tested, and developed a non-proprietary breakaway guy wire that consists of a 6-foot-long section of 3/4-inch galvanized steel pipe (Ivey and Morgan, 1986).

EXHIBIT V-10
Strategy Attributes for Using Breakaway Devices (T)9

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles being struck by vehicles in locations where removing and relocating the poles are not feasible or cost-effective.

Expected Effectiveness

Field data from Massachusetts (five crashes) indicate that in the limited applications, there have been no serious injuries from crashes involving the AD-IV steel reinforced safety pole. In addition, there has been no loss of service, there have been no safety problems relative to lineworkers, and the average repair time is 90 minutes.

Texas reported one crash involving the AD-IV design pole. This crash did not involve a serious injury, although erosion had reduced the pole's effectiveness. The pole was replaced and the side slope restored to a functional condition.

Keys to Success

Identify specific locations where a breakaway device is an acceptable option. These locations do not have other nearby fixed objects on the roadside and the potential for removing or relocating the poles is poor.

An accurate and detailed safety information and maintenance record system is essential for this strategy to be feasible. In the absence of such systems, one must rely on local knowledge and an effective monitoring process.

The use of standardized investigation forms and documentation for site investigations is important to provide the data for decision making. This helps ensure that site investigations are consistent across different regions and promotes rapid site evaluation.

Potential Difficulties

Breakaway devices will require modest periodic maintenance and repairs subsequent to collisions that would not be necessary if the poles were removed or relocated to less vulnerable locations.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures of program effectiveness would include the number of breakaway devices placed in service, the frequency of inspections and maintenance, the initial cost, and the cost to repair and maintain the devices.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rates of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes are those crashes that strike the specific poles before and after the installation of the breakaway devices. Monitoring these crashes can help determine proper installation or other issues specific to the devices.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

Pole replacement programs require a regular participation of the utility companies, which own most of the poles. The utility companies should be involved at an early stage in this program.

New or revised policies will be needed to establish design criteria and warrants for placement of the new types of poles, as well as to facilitate both consistent and appropriate pole replacement and cooperation of utility companies.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

Review time for utility companies may extend the implementation period during the first installations.

Costs Involved

Both initial and maintenance costs must be considered. Some specific cost figures may be found in Appendix 6.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

The affected utility companies will need to be trained in how to properly install, repair, and maintain the devices used on their poles.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

If the breakaway devices used are not the type that can be repaired, then replacement devices need to be inventoried.

Information on Agencies or Organizations Currently Implementing this Strategy

The following states have applied the Steel Reinforced Safety Poles (Ivey and Scott, 2004):

  • In 1987, Kentucky installed 10 poles using the FHWA design. Because of roadway projects, only 6 poles remain in service. These poles have not been involved in collisions.

  • In 1990, Massachusetts installed 19 poles. One pole has been struck three times and performed as designed. However, the pole was replaced by a conventional pole because of the failure in the wood adjacent to the through bolts in the upper connection. Eighteen poles are still in service.

  • In 1991, Virginia installed five poles. These poles have experienced no maintenance problems, have survived several instances of high winds, and have not been involved in a collision.

  • In 1994, Texas installed six poles. One collision has been recorded without significant injury to the driver.

Strategy 16.2 A4: Shield Drivers from Poles in High-Crash Locations (P)

General Description

The target of this strategy is poles in high-crash locations where removing, relocating, or redesigning the poles (i.e., redesigning the poles as breakaway) is not feasible or not cost- effective. This strategy shields the driver from striking the poles by using a number of different devices such as guardrail, crash cushions, and concrete barriers. However, the potential hazards of the safety device itself must be considered in the economic analyses. These devices may themselves be struck by vehicles and are designed to markedly reduce the severity of a crash, not to prevent the crash.

Guardrails and Other Roadside Barriers

The purpose of guardrails and other roadside barriers (e.g., Jersey barriers) is to redirect errant vehicles away from a roadside hazard so drivers may regain control of the vehicle or arrive at a safer stop than would result from striking the hazard. Shielding drivers from poles is a proper use of guardrails when based upon engineering judgement or a cost-effectiveness study. A cost-effectiveness study should consider the type of barrier and end treatment proposed, as well as the level of injuries that are expected to occur from a vehicle striking them. The methodology for conducting a cost-benefit analysis can be found in the AASHTO Roadside Design Guide. The criteria for the application of guardrails to shield utility poles are as follows:

  • The pole is located in the clear zone area.

  • The alternatives for removing and relocating the poles are not practical because of rightof- way constraints, roadside environment, or economics.

  • Breakaway poles cannot be used because of utility load, size of pole, or other requirements.

  • The guardrail and the end treatments or barrier will not create a greater hazard than the poles.

  • The guardrail will not redirect the vehicles into a higher-crash roadside area.

  • The face of the guardrail will not be closer than 2 feet from the edge of the travel lane.

  • The guardrail should be placed far enough in front of the object that a vehicle does not impact the object by knocking the guardrail backward.

Crash Cushions

The purpose of crash cushions is to shield vehicle occupants from rigid objects that cannot be removed, relocated, or made breakaway. Engineering judgement or an economic analysis may justify the use of crash cushions to treat poles in high-crash locations. Crash cushions reduce the severity of crashes from that which would take place if the vehicle hit the unshielded object. They do this by absorbing the energy of errant vehicles in a controlled manner. The criteria for the application of crash cushions to shield utility poles are as follows:

  • The pole is located in the clear zone area.

  • The alternatives for removing and relocating the poles are not practical because of rightof- way constraints, roadside environment, or economics.

  • There is adequate space between the travel lane and in front of the pole to accommodate the selected crash cushion.

  • The final resting position of the crash cushion, the debris from the crash cushion, and the impacting vehicle will not cause a hazard to other vehicles.

  • There should be a sufficient clear zone area around the crash cushion to provide for redirected vehicles.

EXHIBIT V-11
Strategy Attributes for Shielding Poles in High-Crash Locations (P)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles that cannot be removed from the roadside or relocated to less vulnerable locations or cannot be treated with a breakaway device. Occupants of vehicles that crash with these poles.

Expected Effectiveness

These devices are traditionally used along roadsides to protect vehicle occupants from a variety of fixed objects. However, the effectiveness of the devices depends largely upon how close they are to the roadway and the specific design of the devices. With so many factors influencing the crash severity and the change in crash frequency, it is difficult to provide a simple table for expected effectiveness. Agencies are referred to the FHWA computer program ROADSIDE 5.0 of the Roadside Design Guide to complete economic analyses of the existing and proposed conditions. The economic analysis is necessary to determine if the benefits of shielding the poles outweigh the disadvantages.

Keys to Success

A key to success is developing an effective process to identify poles in high-crash locations and to establish an effective set of criteria concerning where to shield poles instead of removing or relocating the poles.

An accurate and detailed safety information and maintenance record system is essential for this strategy to be feasible. In the absence of such systems, local knowledge must be tapped and an effective monitoring system established.

The use of standardized investigation forms and documentation for site investigations is important to provide the data for decision making. This helps ensure that site investigations are consistent across different regions and promotes rapid site evaluation.

Another key to success is proper maintenance of the shielding devices.

Potential Difficulties

The devices that are used to shield roadside hazards are fixed objects that may themselves be struck by errant vehicles. A major pitfall can be expending resources in the name of safety, but experiencing no net improvement or even a net degradation in safety.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures for a program would include the number and type of safety devices placed into service, the number and length of the locations treated, and the cost.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes are those that strike the specific poles or the specific safety device after it is installed. It is also necessary to consider the number and severity of all crashes that strike the safety device used at the specific site to ensure that there is a net safety improvement. Monitoring these crashes can help determine proper installation and maintenance of the roadside hardware used.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

New or revised policies may be needed to ensure consistent and appropriate pole shielding.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

To be determined.

Costs Involved

The types of roadside devices for shielding drivers from roadside hazards are relatively common, and the best sources for construction and maintenance costs are the individual DOTs.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

Strategy 16.2 A5: Improve the Drivers' Ability to See Poles in High-Crash Locations (E)

General Description

This strategy is generally used when the first four strategies are not feasible or cost-effective. In this strategy, the pole is delineated or lighted to make the pole more visible. For example, Pennsylvania DOT has started introducing reflective taping on utility poles to improve the driver's ability to see these poles at night (see Exhibit V-12). While this strategy does not reduce the severity of the crash, it may help drivers see the object and take the necessary evasive actions. This line of reasoning assumes that the errant vehicles are under some level of control or can be brought under control after the driver is alerted to the presence of the pole. However, if the vehicle is out of control, then the fact that the pole is delineated or more visible does not reduce the probability of the crash.

A major problem with this strategy is that its low cost may make it appear attractive, but it may not provide any real improvement in safety. Application of this strategy should be limited to poles where other strategies cannot be applied. The AASHTO Roadside Design Guide places the order of preference for treating objects in the clear zone as follows:

  • Redesign the facility to reduce ROR crash potential (new or redesigned roads).

  • Remove the object; relocate the object.

  • Redesign the object to lessen the impact; shield the object.

  • Delineate the object.

Effective maintenance is also important. Exhibit V-13 shows an object marker behind a utility pole. The marker had previously been in front of a pole. That pole was struck and replaced, but the marker was never moved. This marker has since been removed because it proved ineffectual in preventing the crash.

EXHIBIT V-12
Reflective Taping Used by Pennsylvania DOT

Exhibit 12

EXHIBIT V-13
New Pole Placed in Front of Object Marker
An object marker failed to prevent the crash that took out the original pole it delineated. The new pole was placed in front of the object marker.
(Photo: Brian Murphy)

Exhibit 13

EXHIBIT V-14
Strategy Attributes for Improving the Drivers' Ability to See Poles in High-Crash Locations (E)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Involves poles where other strategies cannot be applied or are not cost-effective. Targets the driver of the errant vehicle, by informing the driver of the presence of the pole, when it might not otherwise be detected before the crash.

Expected Effectiveness

The low cost of signing and other delineating devices may show large returns in terms of cost-benefits, if a reduction in crashes is assumed. However, it is difficult to predict this strategy's effectiveness, because most errant vehicles are out of control and cannot be maneuvered around objects. The strategy is experimental and may produce no benefits. Pilot testing, with carefully designed evaluation, is appropriate here.

Keys to Success

A key to success is establishing effective criteria to indicate when delineating the poles is the cost-effective treatment, such as on very low-volume roads and where application of other strategies is not cost-effective. It is important, in such cases, that the investigation and the justification for not recommending a more effective strategy be fully documented.

Another key to success is effective maintenance. Delineation devices must be regularly cleaned and replaced. When poles are replaced, delineation devices must be replaced properly (see Exhibit V-13).

Potential Difficulties

Delineating the object may not have the desired effect in reducing pole crashes at the location. If pole crashes continue to occur at the location and the delineators are replaced after each crash, then simply delineating the pole is not effective and other countermeasures need to be considered.

If a delineated pole is struck, the driver may sue the highway agency, arguing that by delineating the pole, the agency recognized the pole as a hazard and had the duty to provide a superior treatment.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures of program effectiveness would include the number and type of delineation devices placed into service and the number and length of the locations treated.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes are those crashes that involve striking the specific poles, all ROR fixed-object crashes, and any crash where a pole was struck at the specific site.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

New or revised policies may be needed to ensure consistent and appropriate pole delineation or lighting.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

To be determined.

Costs Involved

The cost of signing and other delineating material is low. However, the material may require maintenance, as well as occasional testing for retroreflectivity.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

Strategy 16.2 A6: Apply Traffic Calming Measures to Reduce Speeds on High-Crash Highway Sections (T)

General Description

The application of this strategy is generally for urban residential and collector streets, where the poles are placed close to the roadway and it is not economically feasible to remove, relocate, or shield the poles. These roads are not typically high-speed roads, but they may have poor speed compliance that contributes to vehicles striking poles on the roadside. Implementing traffic calming measures to achieve lower speeds at high-crash locations can reduce the severity of the crash by decreasing the energy of the crash. Lower speed may also have some influence on reducing the frequency of crashes as well. This strategy should not be interpreted as simply reducing the speed limit, especially if the speed compliance is already low. Traffic calming measures may also divert traffic from these roads, thus reducing the exposure. This guide is not intended to serve as a reference for traffic calming measures. More details are provided in the pedestrians’ guide. An excellent source for additional information about traffic calming measures is the Institute of Transportation Engineers web site (www.ite.org/traffic/index.html).

Objective 16.2 B—Prevent Placing Utility Poles in High-Crash Locations

Strategy 16.2 B1: Develop, Revise, and Implement Policies to Prevent Placing or Replacing Poles within the Recovery Area (T)

General Description

This strategy involves developing and implementing policies that prevent placing (or replacing) poles within the recovery area along streets and highways during new construction, widening, and other projects that will affect existing or new poles. This is primarily a proactive systemic strategy. It is designed to prevent pole crashes by requiring that each pole in a project's boundaries be reviewed to determine the level of risk to drivers and treated if necessary. An example of a state policy on utility placement may be found in Appendix 4 (WSDOT, 1992 and 2002). Examples of state studies that lead to policy formulation may be found in Appendix 7, Appendix 8, and Appendix 9. Information about roadside safety policies formulated by utility companies may be found in Appendix 10.

There are frequent opportunities to apply the products of this strategy throughout the normal operations of a transportation agency. The design and construction of new facilities are obvious opportunities. However, roadway widening and other low-cost projects occur more frequently than new construction, so policies in these areas would be used more frequently.

New roads typically offer the greatest opportunity to meet highway safety objectives. Agencies should require poles to be placed near the edge of the right-of-way, or as far from the traveled way as possible. 3R and widening projects are also good opportunities to relocate the poles further from the roadway or to better locations. Typically, many smaller widening projects result from residential development where the developer pays to widen the road to add turn lanes. Utility placement and relocation policies should also cover these smaller more localized projects. These projects should require improvements to the roadside if widening degrades the roadside safety. Moreover, the policies should cover the placement of poles for signal supports.

EXHIBIT V-15
Strategy Attributes for Developing, Revising, and Implementing Policies to Prevent Placing or Replacing Poles within the Recovery Area (T)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles located within the boundaries of roadway construction, reconstruction, widening, etc., that can be relocated farther from the roadway or revised in some way to reduce the probability of errant drivers striking them in the future.

Expected Effectiveness

Changes often take considerable time to develop sufficient data to analyze. The effectiveness of the strategy is dependent upon three main factors: (1) the policies themselves, (2) the level of implementation, and (3) the frequency of exceptions.

Keys to Success

If the policies are too weak, then they will be ineffective. If the policies are too strict, then gaining support will be difficult. The policies must address several issues such as the lateral displacement of encroaching vehicles, the purpose of the roadway, the location of underground utilities, roadside conditions, the prevailing speed of the roadway, and the volume of the roadway.

It is practically impossible to develop policies that fit every situation; therefore, there will be exceptions. However, all exceptions should require a cost-effectiveness study and an engineering recommendation. A large number of exceptions reduces the effectiveness of the strategy and encourages other exceptions.

Inclusiveness is also important to attain success. When developing utility pole placement policies, the agency should include representatives from the traffic safety, design, legal, and utilities divisions of agencies. Developing and adopting policies with the participation of all stakeholders is important. It is also important to gain “buy-in” from the upper management of the highway agency.

Potential Difficulties

Many states and local DOTs may already have policies in place that specifically address the use of the roadway right-of-way by utilities. There may be resistance to change. However, it is prudent to review the policies and determine if they contribute to development of safer roadsides. In addition, the application of the policies may not be consistent throughout the agencies.

In many jurisdictions, the agencies responsible for the design and approval of the placement of poles along the roadside may not be familiar with the safety implications of the roadside environment.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures of program effectiveness would include the adoption of the desired policies, the number of projects covered by the policies, the total mileage covered, and the number of exceptions granted to the policy.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes on locations meeting the policy requirements. In this case, the target crashes are those crashes within the project boundaries that strike poles, all ROR, fixed-object crashes, and any crash where a pole was struck at the specific site.

Associated Needs

A brochure may be needed to inform field engineers, utility company personnel, and individuals of the requirements for placing or replacing poles along the roadway right-of-way.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

State DOTs and many local agencies have the organizational structures to implement this strategy. On new construction and changes to the existing roadway, engineers responsible for the inspection and acceptance of the work would also ensure that the policies are applied. A key to success is establishing organizational mechanisms for including all stakeholders in the development of the policies.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

Involving a range of stakeholders may affect the implementation time. Dissemination of the policy may also take time, depending upon the organizational structure of the agency.

Costs Involved

The key cost component is the personnel time required to develop, review, and revise the placement guidelines.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

Training currently provided to design engineers, construction engineers, and those persons responsible for reviewing and approving plans needs to cover the policies concerning the placement of poles along the roadside. Emphasis needs to be placed upon the connection between highway safety and the policies that have been established.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

Where safety audits are performed, this policy should be reflected in the review of existing sites.

Objective 16.2 C—Treat Several Utility Poles along a Corridor to Minimize the Likelihood of Crashing into a Utility Pole if a Vehicle Runs Off the Road

This objective, unlike Strategy 16.2 A1, has a corridor orientation. The first objective focused upon specific high-crash locations where vehicles were striking poles (e.g., on the outside of a curve). Strategy 16.2 A2 is a systemic, proactive strategy that helps prevent placing poles in vulnerable locations. However, some pole problems are not confined to a short distance and are located on roadways where there are no plans for reconstruction. Thus new policies would not affect the placement of poles on those roadsides.

Corridors where poles are placed within the recovery area (i.e., clear zone) are the target locations for this objective. Typically, the pole crashes are spread along the corridor and there is not a single pole or cluster of poles that are in greater need of mitigation than the rest. See Appendix 4 for an example of one state's approach to relocating utilities to improve roadside safety.

Strategy 16.2 C1: Place Utilities Underground (P)

General Description

This strategy involves removing the utility poles and placing the utilities underground. If the roadside exhibits a suitable recovery area, then this strategy could have a sizeable effect. However, in many cases, there are other objects within the recovery area or there are other roadside hazards present that may reduce the strategy’s effectiveness. If the poles are used to support streetlights, in addition to utilities, removing the streetlight may reduce the overall safety of the area. Jones and Baum (1980) found that 34 percent of urban utility poles in their sample also had streetlights attached to them (for example, see Exhibit V-16). In order to reduce the frequency and severity of utility pole crashes in such situations, one could place utilities underground and install breakaway (slip-base or frangible) light poles farther away from the road (behind the sidewalk) with luminaires on extension arms.

While placing utilities underground is a high-cost strategy, it is important to realize that safety is not the only reason for doing this strategy. Many communities have programs for placing utilities underground to improve aesthetics and possibly for security. Partnering with these groups, safety engineers can help justify and prioritize the corridors where utilities will be moved underground.

EXHIBIT V-16
Urban Location with Utility Poles Very Close to the Roadway and with Streetlights Attached to the Poles

Exhibit 16

EXHIBIT V-17
Strategy Attributes for Placing Utilities Underground (P)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Corridors where poles are placed close to the road and there is a history of pole crashes along the corridor or where there is a high possibility of pole crashes.

Expected Effectiveness

The effectiveness of this strategy is difficult to determine because of issues such as the location of other objects in the recovery area, the steepness of side slopes, and the net effect of placing street lamps on separate luminaire poles or removing the streetlights altogether.

With so many factors influencing crash severity and frequency, it is difficult to provide a simple table for expected effectiveness. Agencies are referred to the FHWA computer program ROADSIDE 5.0 of the Roadside Design Guide to complete economic analyses of the existing and proposed conditions (removing poles, adding or not adding luminaire poles, etc.). Economic analysis is necessary, to determine if the benefits of placing the utilities underground outweigh the disadvantages. Although it is difficult to place a dollar value on the aesthetic improvements, it is important that this benefit be reflected in decision making. Therefore, a cost-effectiveness analysis is desired, in addition to a cost-benefit analysis (See Section VI for further details).

Keys to Success

A key to success is the condition of the recovery area, if the utilities are placed underground and the poles are removed. If other high fixed objects are in the recovery area, such as trees, buildings, and large plant boxes, or if there are steep side slopes, then these hazards also should be mitigated.

Partnering with other organizations that are interested in placing utilities underground can help the potential for success. However, the priorities for these groups may be oriented more toward commercial and tourism interest than safety.

Potential Difficulties

The high cost of the strategy is the primary difficulty.

Pole lines may carry many different utilities. If there is limited room in the underground channel, it may not be possible to relocate all the utilities there.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures for a program would include the miles of utilities placed under ground and the number of poles eliminated.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes on locations meeting the policy requirements. In this case, the target crashes are those crashes within the project boundaries that strike poles, run off the road, or strike other fixed objects.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

DOTs should work with municipalities that are placing utilities underground for other purposes to maximize the returns on limited funds. DOTs are working with local agencies to establish cost-sharing policies for utility relocation.

Another institutional issue is maintenance. Restoration of power lines that are felled by storms consumes resources and can be avoided if placed underground. However, major maintenance underground can be burdensome and costly.

Another policy issue concerns DOT use of right-of-way to generate revenue (e.g., placing cable and cell towers) within right-of-way.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

The time required to work with other agencies and to acquire the necessary funding, as well as to complete construction, will result in this process requiring more than a year to implement in most cases.

Costs Involved

The costs are high and will vary depending on the complexities encountered along the corridors.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

Strategy 16.2 C2: Relocate Poles Along the Corridor Farther from the Roadway and/or to Less Vulnerable Locations (P)

General Description

This strategy seeks to reduce pole crashes by locating the poles in less vulnerable locations or by increasing the distance of the poles from the roadway. Fox et al. (1979) found that poles at the curb were three times more likely to be struck than poles placed 10 feet from the curb. Mak and Mason (1980) also found that pole crashes were overrepresented within 10 feet of the roadway. Zegeer and Parker (1983) developed a model using nearly 10,000 utility pole crashes in four states. This predictive model related the number of pole crashes as a function of the average offset from the travel lane, the average daily traffic, and pole density. When poles closer than 10 feet from the roadway were relocated to points beyond 10 feet, it was found that the crash reduction was greater than for poles that originally were located beyond 10 feet from the road and that were subsequently farther removed.

Strategy Attributes

Strategy 16.2 A2 focused upon a single pole, or very few poles, at a specific location, such as the outside of a curve or the end of a lane drop. Strategy 16.2 C2 focuses on longer sections of roadway where many poles are involved. This strategy's attributes are the same as for Strategy 16.2 A2, except that the cost will be considerably higher since it affects more poles. Exhibit V-9A shows the crash reduction factors from the Zegeer and Cynecki (1984) data for relocating a line of poles farther from the roadway along two-lane rural highways with shoulders and no curbs.

Strategy 16.2 C3: Decrease the Number of Poles Along the Corridor (P)

General Description

This strategy consists of reducing the number of poles on the roadside by increasing the pole spacing, placing poles on one side of the street only, or jointly using the poles (i.e., placing multiple utility services on the same pole). The strategy is to reduce pole density along the corridor. Jones and Baum (1980) found that pole density was the factor with the highest correlation to pole crashes. The Zegeer and Parker (1983) model also includes pole density as a variable in predicting the number of pole crashes.

The spacing between utility poles differs, depending upon the type of utility and the general practices of the specific company. As poles are placed farther apart, the openings that will allow a vehicle to pass through without striking a pole get larger. Exhibit V-18 demonstrates the concept. As pole “A” is moved farther from the pole next to the vehicle, then the opening (lightly shaded area) increases. If there is space between the poles and behind the poles as a suitable recovery area, then the larger spacing allows a vehicle more space to recover.

Another way to reduce the pole density along a corridor is to have poles located only on one side of the road. If the pole spacing can be maintained the same by placing multiple utility services on the same pole, then this strategy should reduce the overall pole density by half. However, the side of the roadway where the poles remain would not be expected to realize a safety improvement since the conditions on that side remain the same.

Exhibit V-19 shows the strategy attributes for decreasing the number of poles along the corridor. Exhibit V-20 shows a nomograph that relates the expected number of pole crashes per mile per year to the average daily traffic, the pole density, and the average pole offset from the roadway. The nomograph is based on the following equation that Zegeer and Parker (1983) estimated:

ACC / MI / YR= 9.84x10-5(ADT)+0.0345(DEN)
(OFF)0.6
-0.04

EXHIBIT V-18
Schematic Showing How Increasing the Pole Spacing Provides Large Areas for Errant Vehicles to Pass through without Striking a Pole

Exhibit 18

The example in the nomograph shows a road with an ADT of 10,000 vehicles per day, a pole density of 60 poles per mile, and an average pole offset of 5 feet. The expected number of crashes is 1.15 pole crashes per mile per year. If the pole density is reduced by half by placing all utilities on one side of the highway, then the expected number of crashes is reduced to 0.75 pole crashes per mile per year (a 35-percent reduction). If the pole offset was increased to 15 feet, rather than reducing the pole density, then the predicted number of crashes reduces to 0.6 pole crashes per mile per year (a 48-percent reduction). However, the better option would be to reduce the pole density AND increase the offset. The crash reduction in this case would be a 65-percent reduction to approximately 0.4 pole crashes per mile per year. This nomograph only predicts the number of pole crashes and does not determine the number of ROR crashes or other fixed-object crashes.

EXHIBIT V-19
Strategy Attributes for Decreasing the Number of Poles Along the Corridor (P)

Attribute Description
Technical Attributes

Target

Poles along a corridor where the pole density contributes to the frequency of pole crashes.

Expected Effectiveness

See Exhibit V-20 to derive an estimate of the number of pole crashes predicted, based upon the average daily traffic, the pole density and the average pole offset from the traveled way. To calculate the pole crash reduction, find the estimate for the current conditions and the proposed conditions.

There may be an increase in the number of ROR crashes. Jones and Baum found that ROR crashes generally had a lower severity than pole crashes. The authors show that injury and fatal crashes comprised approximately 51 percent of pole crashes compared with 29 percent of the ROR crashes. Although not quantified, the increase in ROR crashes may also be offset more by an increase in the number of errant vehicles that recover and never are reported as a crash.

Keys to Success

The key to success is that there are no additional hazards along the roadway where decreasing pole density will only allow vehicles to strike other fixed objects. The program should not reduce the number and severity of pole crashes by transferring the problem to other non-pole objects.

Potential Difficulties

Increasing the pole spacing or placing all the utilities on one side of the road may require using larger poles. Larger poles may cause an increase in the severity of the crashes involving the remaining poles.

Reducing the number of poles may require the cooperation of utility companies, which may be resistant to relocation of their utilities and sharing of poles.

Appropriate Measures and Data

Process measures for a program would include the number of miles of roadway where the pole density was reduced, the change in pole density for the specific corridors, the number of poles eliminated, and the cost to complete the project.

Impact measures include the number, severity, and rate of target crashes. In this case, the target crashes include all ROR crashes, fixed-object crashes, and any crashes striking poles at the specific site. The impact should consider the severity of the target crashes to determine that there was a safety improvement and not a problem transferal.

Associated Needs

None identified.

Organizational and Institutional Attributes

Organizational, Institutional, and Policy Issues

A number of issues may arise that will require cooperative effort to arrive at a satisfactory resolution. These include responsibility for pole maintenance, roles and responsibilities of the involved parties when problems occur, and leasing or payment rights. Involvement of legal departments will be necessary to work out arrangements.

Issues Affecting Implementation Time

The cost of the projects and the required coordination to relocate the services with multiple utility companies may affect the implementation time.

Costs Involved

It will be costly to relocate the services carried on the poles, remove the poles, and possibly use larger and/or stronger poles. However, economic analyses may show that it is a worthy investment. The cost may be offset if the application of the strategy is in conjunction with a roadway project where the utilities would be required to relocate in any case.

Training and Other Personnel Needs

None identified.

Legislative Needs

None identified.

Other Key Attributes

None identified.

EXHIBIT V-20
Nomograph to Determine the Number of Pole Crashes Per Mile Per Year Based upon the Average Daily Traffic, Pole Density, and Average Pole Offset
Source: Zegeer and Parker (1983)

Exhibit 20

1American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Roadside Design Guide. Washington, D.C. January 1996.
2Ivey, D. L., and C. P. Scott. Utilities on Roadside Safety, State-of-the-Art Report 9. Prepared by the Utility Safety Task Force, Committee on Utilities (A2A07), TRB, 2004. This report estimates that safety treatments for exposed poles actually result in saving utility maintenance funds.
33R refers to resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation.
4Offset is defined as the distance between the roadway edgeline and the utility pole.
5An alternative to breakaway poles is energy absorbing utility poles. These recently developed poles are designed to “capture” the vehicle and stop it gently enough so that velocity change and deceleration do not exceed requirements established for the safety of a vehicle's occupants. Further information about this technology can be obtained from the following sources: http://international.fhwa.dot.gov/Pdfs/Euroroadlighting.pdf, http://www.skp-cs.com/poleproducts/td/pdf/energyabsorbpoles.pdf.
6The clear zone is a traversable and unobstructed roadside area. The clear zone distance is a function of many factors including the design speed of the roadway section, traffic conditions (ADT), alignment, and the roadside slope (Roadside Design Guide, AASHTO, 2002).
7Foster-Miller can manufacture this breakaway guy wire in-house. Further information on this system can be obtained from http://www.ce.utexas.edu/em2000/papers/KKasturi.pdf or by contacting Srinivasan Kasturi at skasturi@foster-miller.com.
8Further information about this product can be obtained from John Hill at JohnHill3@UTDinc.com.
9Contrary to the impression given by the term breakaway, current designs approved under NCHRP Report 350 do not reduce the load carrying capacity of the pole.

Key References

Alberson, D. C., and D. L. Ivey. “Improved Breakaway Utility Pole, AD-IV.” Transportation Research Record 1468, Transportation Research Board. 1994. pp. 84–94.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Roadside Design Guide, Washington, D.C. 2002.

Fox, J. C., M. C. Good, and P. M. Joubert. Collisions with Utility Poles—A Summary Report. University of Melbourne. Commonwealth Department of Transport. February 1979.

General Estimates System (GES). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 1999. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/ges.html.

Ivey, Don L., and King K. Mak. “Recommended Guidelines for New Utility Installations.” Invited presentation to the Symposium on Safety in the Clear Zone and Utility Installations, Committee on Utilities. Transportation Research Board. June 25, 1989.

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