The Kentucky Department of Highways has an in-house recycling operation for used guardrail and guardrail posts. The used materials are obtained from removal of existing guardrail included in normal contracts for reconstruction, rehabilitation, and widening of existing highways, mostly from interstate highways. The guardrail from these projects is delivered to a yard operated in Frankfort, KY. Prison labor straightens damaged or bent rail and posts using a rolling machine that can straighten the rail and posts and restore the “W” shape to the rail element. The straightened rail and posts are then picked up, regalvanized, and returned to the yard by a contract vendor. The current vendor is St. Mary’s Galvanizing in Monroe, Louisiana. The former vendor was Columbus Galvanizing in Columbus, Ohio.
The used rail and posts are then furnished to maintenance crews for repairs. The state also lets contracts for replacement of old guardrail or installation at new locations on existing roads. These contracts include a Special Provision that specifies that the state will furnish the rail and posts to be picked up and erected by the contractor or new timber offset blocks from stock. The bid unit is linear feet of guardrail system installed. The contactor furnishes and installs new bolts as an incidental item and furnishes and installs new end treatments as individual units each.
Kentucky has been following this procedure for at least 25 years. Cost savings can be documented by the difference in average unit bid costs for all new rail systems compared to the average unit bid costs for recycled systems plus the unit prices for the regalvanizing operation. Recent savings have been in the range of $2.00 per linear foot. Due to the recent spike in the steel commodity prices, anticipated savings this fiscal year will be greater.
Kentucky does not let contracts that allow the contractor to furnish used regalvanized guardrail from other sources. If the state cannot furnish the rail due to lack of supply or location at an extreme distance from the storage yard, it lets a contract with the standard specifications that requires all new materials.
Use of recycled guardrail on new construction projects or major reconstruction/rehabilitation projects is not allowed. These projects must always use all new materials.