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U.S. Drives for Less Rust on the Road

Thursday, January 3, 2013

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Is there a solution to the thousands of miles of guardrails rusting away along U.S. highways?

The federal government is gambling yes, with a new request for proposals to find the best method.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has issued an RFP to determine and compare the corrosion resistance of guardrail materials prepared by continuous and hot dip galvanization using accelerated corrosion testing.


ASTM's Salt Fog test is not a good predictor of real-world corrosion, the TRB says.

Proposals are due Jan. 25. The agency wants a $90,000 fixed-price contract.

Guarding Guardrails

The agency notes that all state highway agencies use galvanized guardrail manufactured to the AASHTO M 180 Specification as part of roadway safety elements.  A number of agencies permit both hot dip batch and continuous galvanization of W-beam guardrail elements.

In the hot dip batch process, guardrail elements are fabricated, followed by hot-dip galvanizing application. In the continuous process, the steel is repeatedly galvanized and then fabricated to manufacturer guardrail elements resulting in bare steel exposed to the elements at cut edges and punched holes.

“These coating types and coating thicknesses have been compared in the past using the ASTM B-117 Salt Fog test,” the Research Board notes. “However, this test does not directly correlate to corrosion seen in real world environments.”

Corrosion Comparisons

The agency wants a head-to-head comparison of the corrosion protection afforded by both methods.


The Transportation Research Board wants to compare the corrosion resistance of guardrail materials prepared by continuous and hot dip galvanization.

Engineers will submit proposals that are broken down into three tasks:

  • Prepare a laboratory experiment;
  • Conduct accelerated corrosion testing and analyze results; and
  • Present a final report that summarizes findings, draws conclusions and presents proposed guidance.

Proposals will be evaluated by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.The work is scheduled to begin about March 1.

Reported by Paint BidTracker, a construction reporting service devoted to identifying contracting opportunities for the coatings community.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Corrosion protection; Corrosion resistance; Galvanized steel; Paint BidTracker; Roads/Highways; Transportation

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/3/2013, 8:13 AM)

That second photo really looks like either brown-painted or weathering-steel guardrail. Typically that's what parks guys want (especially national parks) - they just love brown. There are significant drawbacks to weathering steel guardrail.

Comment from James Johnson, (1/4/2013, 1:20 PM)

The problem described could be resolved for free if the FHWA people would use a little common sense. Since it is well known the corrosion is from deicing salt they 1) Could quit using salt and go back to sand or cinders. They are less costly and readily available and far less of a health risk. There is mounting evidence that high chloride levels may be contributing to breast cancer, and if this is true it could also be contributing to other types of cancer. 2) Since the protective coating is shop applied they could make use of automotive painting technology as factory automotive finishes hold up to the same conditions as guard rail but outlast guard rail many times over. It might even be cheaper.

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