Monday, February 26, 2024

What’s up with those grassy medians on Route 199?

Route 199/ Humelsine Parkway in Williamsburg (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Google Maps)
Route 199/ Humelsine Parkway in Williamsburg (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Google Maps)

Have you ever noticed there are some center medians between travel lanes along Route 199 with guardrails, concrete barriers, or sometimes, nothing but grass?

Well, there is a reason for that, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Since guardrail can be a hazard itself, VDOT does have standard conditions that we follow for the placement and installation of these barriers,” Brittany McBride, spokeswoman for VDOT, wrote in an email.

McBride said a guardrail is typically not installed in an unobstructed zone, in this case, a grassy median which allows space for vehicles to stop and recover.

In fact, having plain grass is safer than both a concrete wall and a guardrail since it protects the vehicle from what is on the other side of the barrier, McBride noted.

VDOT typically installs concrete barriers on interstates such as I-64 and costs about $180 per linear foot. Guardrails on the other hand, are cheaper, costing approximately $3 per linear foot, she said.

There are multiple factors which go into determining if a median needs some sort of barrier such as the speed limit, whether the road is on a slope, if there are objects such as trees in the median, past crash data and the width of the vehicle lanes.

As the travel lanes get wider, there are no barriers and if they get closer, there is barrier put in place, McBride said.

“VDOT regularly performs guardrail reviews along state-maintained roadways to assess the need for the addition of guardrail or adjustments to existing guardrail already in place,” McBride said. “Guardrail reviews are also performed during the planning of a road project, including repaving projects.”

But what about crashes?

“VDOT will assess the need for guardrail review depending on the crash severity and circumstances, and after crashes resulting in a fatality,” McBride said.

VDOT also monitors corridor crash data and performs safety and guardrail reviews if a specific area experiences an increase in a type of crash, such as a fixed-object crash.

Think a guardrail is needed? You can request VDOT to review the area by contacting its 24 hour customer service center at 800-367-7623 or the department’s online form. You can also contact your specific locality.

For more information, visit VDOT’s website.
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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