Last week town officials announced that they would be reassessing Wilton’s current policy on determining where roadside guardrails are necessary, following recent complaints from residents about newly installed rails.

Now, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice has released a Q&A with additional details on the topic, answering the most commonly asked questions she received after the issue was raised. Among the questions asked  were those on how much the town spent on replacing old wood post-and-wire guardrails with new metal ones–and then removing them.

In addition, Vanderslice published to the town website the engineering report written by the consultant hired by the town to assess the current guide rail policy.

The policy will be discussed at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting (8 p.m., Town Hall Rm. B) and the board will hear public comment on the topic as well.

Does the Town have a guide rail replacement program? If yes, why and what is it?

Yes, the Town has a program to replace the wood post/wire rail guide rails because that type of guide rail no longer meets crashworthiness standards.

A number of years ago the State issued guidelines to municipalities indicating when replacing guide rails, they should not be replaced with wood post/wire rail guide rails. A program to perform annual removal/replacement of wood post/wire rail with metal beam guide rails (MBR), which pre-dates my being first selectwoman, was implemented by the town.

Why did the Town choose MBR as the replacement guide rail?

We have yet to find records, which likely go back more than 15 years, as to the specifics of when and why someone decided the Town should exclusively use MBR as a replacement guide rail. Early on in my term, I received a complaint about the appearance of a newly installed MBR guide rail. I drove to the location and agreed that the material was not appropriate for the location and spoke with the then long-time Town Engineer. I was told that the MBR guide rail was the state standard and therefore there wasn’t another option.

What changed?

Wilton’s long-time town engineer retired and nine months ago a new town engineer was hired. When the wood post/wire guide rails were removed on Wild Duck Rd. and Woods End Dr. and replaced by MBR, residents contacted DPW/Facilities Director Chris Burney, new Town Engineer Frank Smergilio and me. This time when I spoke with Frank, he indicated that he didn’t necessarily agree that MBR was the only option for replacement. He explained that there are two separate issues to be considered:  the requirements for whether or not a guide rail placement is needed and if needed, the requirements for the appropriate material for that specific placement.

What happened next? Why were the guide rails removed?

We decided to engage a traffic-engineering firm to do the following:

  1. Review our long-time guide rail placement standard and make a recommendation as to guide rail placement standards,
  2. Provide us with guide rail material standards and,
  3. Specifically look at Wild Duck Rd. and Woods End Dr. and determine what guide rail placements were necessary on the two roads.

The results are as follows and can be read about in detail in the engineering firm’s report found at the end of this Q&A:

  1. The Town’s guide rail placement standards were incomplete. (The DPW department has now adopted the state’s placement standards. This will be discussed at Monday night’s [Sept. 23] Board of Selectmen meeting.)
  2. Depending on the circumstances, there are other guide rail material options besides than MBR. (Those guide rail material options will be presented and discussed at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.)
  3. The review of Wild Duck Rd. and Woods End Dr. determined that nowhere on either road met the current state standards for placement of a guide rail, of any kind. (This is the reason that the MBR guide rails are being removed.)

How much taxpayer money was spent to install and then remove the guide rails on Wild Duck Rd. and Woods End Dr.?

The MBR guide rails installed on and then removed from the two roads were returned to stock and will be used in a more appropriate location in the future. As an FYI, there is a resale market for used guide rails. The town has purchased and installed used guide rails, so that it would have been another other option had we not felt we could reuse them somewhere else.

We don’t yet have the employee labor costs for the removal, as the work hasn’t been completed. The labor to install included the labor for the necessary removal of the wood post/wire guide rails, so the cost specific to only the installation must be calculated. When that information is compiled, it will be made public. Right now we don’t expect it to exceed four man-days in total for the installation and removal.

How will what we have learned change the guide rail replacement program in terms of both practice and cost?

As far as practice for the ongoing program, before removing any existing guide rail, wood post/wire rail or other, we will apply the state standards to determine if a guide rail replacement is required. If not required, the existing guide rail will be removed and no replacement will be installed.

As far as cost, until we have an accurate inventory of guide rails, we do not know the long-term cost of the replacement program. It may be that there are other locations where wood post/wire rail guide rails exist and do not need replacement and others where they are needed.

Do we currently have a database of guard rails, so we know how many wood post/wire rail need to be possibly replaced and how long before that program is completed?

We don’t currently have a database, but Streetscan obtained data on our guide rails at the same time they scanned our roads. We will be contracting with them to provide us with a database, similar to what they created for our roads. Our approach to guide rails will be similar to what our approach has been to paving.

Why am I using the term “guide rails,” when they are “guard rails”?

That is the new terminology.

More Questions? Please email me.

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