Eligibility Letter B124
Skip to contentUnited States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration FHWA HomeFeedback


December 9, 2003


Refer to: HSA-10/B124

Mr. Shane E. Weyant
Corporate Sales and Marketing Director
Creative Pultrusions, Inc.
214 Industrial Lane
Alum Bank, PA 15521

Dear Mr. Weyant:

In your November 10 letter to Mr. Richard Powers of my staff you requested formal Federal Highway Administration acceptance of a guardrail design that used a composite beam material developed under the DOT Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program in lieu of a galvanized steel beam element. Your design, called the SuperRail Composite Guardrail, was tested to NCHRP Report 350 test level 3 (TL-3) by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas. Copies of the test reports and a videotape of the two tests that were conducted were included with your letter.

The SuperRail Composite Guardrail beam element is made via a continuous pultrusion process. Its shape is similar to a standard Thrie-beam rail element as shown in Enclosure 1, but it is composed of fiberglass roving and biaxial fabric layers in a specially formulated resin system. For the test installation, six 25-foot long composite rail sections were butt-spliced using a separate fiberglass vinyl ester composite splice plate and supported on standard W6 x 8.5 steel posts on 6 foot-3 inch centers with routed timber blockouts. Mounting height to the top of the rail element was 32 inches.

NCHRP Report 350 test 3-10 and 3-11 were conducted and documented in the October 2003 SwRI test reports, “Full-Scale Crash Evaluation of a Composite Thrie-Beam Guardrail System – Final Report Test CB-101” and “Full-Scale Crash Evaluation of a Composite Thrie-Beam Guardrail System – Final Report Test CB-102.” In both the small car and the pickup truck tests, the occupant impact velocities (OIVs) and the ridedown accelerations (G's) were below the Report 350 preferred values of 9 m/sec and 15 G's, respectively. Maximum dynamic deflection was 787 mm in the pickup truck test and both vehicles were successfully contained and redirected. Based on these test results, the SuperRail Composite Guardrail may be used on the National Highway System as an NCHRP Report 350 TL-3 longitudinal barrier when such use is acceptable to the contracting agency. Although tested with steel posts, this rail would also be acceptable for use with standard timber posts and offset blocks. Since the SuperRail can be produced in a variety of colors, it may prove to be popular in locations where an aesthetic barrier is preferred.

I understand you plan to develop a crashworthy terminal for use with the SuperRail Composite Guardrail. Until such time as a crashworthy end terminal is tested and accepted, the SuperRail must be buried in a backslope with a post and cable terminal as was tested, shielded with a crashworthy impact attenuator, or introduced outside the minimum clear zone selected for the project where the barrier will be used.

Please note the following special provisions that apply to all FHWA product acceptance letters:

  • FHWA acceptance is limited to the crashworthiness characteristics of the SuperRail and does not address long-term durability or life-cycle costs.
  • Any design changes that may adversely influence the crashworthiness of the device will require a new acceptance letter.
  • Should the FHWA discover that the qualification testing was flawed, that in-service performance evaluations reveal unacceptable safety problems, or that the device being marketed is significantly different from the version that was crash tested, this acceptance letter may be modified or revoked.
  • You will be expected to certify to potential users that the hardware furnished has essentially the same chemistry, mechanical properties, and geometry as that submitted for acceptance, and that it will meet the crashworthiness requirements of NCHRP Report 350.
  • To prevent misunderstanding by others, this letter of acceptance, designated as number B-124 shall not be reproduced except in full. This letter, and the test documentation upon which this letter is based, is public information. All such letters and documentation may be reviewed at our office upon request.
  • The SuperRail is a proprietary product. When proprietary devices are specified by a highway agency for use on Federal-aid projects, except exempt, non-NHS projects, they: (a) must be supplied through competitive bidding with equally suitable unpatented items; (b) the highway agency must certify that they are essential for synchronization with existing highway facilities or that no equally suitable alternative exists or; (c) they must be used for research or for a distinctive type of construction on relatively short sections of road for experimental purposes. FHWA regulations concerning proprietary products are contained in Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 635.411, a copy of which is Enclosure 2.

Since the SuperRail Composite Guardrail is a new product, I strongly encourage you to conduct in-service performance evaluations of field installations for several years to obtain cost and installation data and information on barrier performance under varied weather and temperature conditions.

Sincerely yours,

/ original signed by /

John R. Baxter
Director, Office of Roadside Design
Office of Safety

2 Enclosures


Sec. 635.411 Material or product selection.

(a) Federal funds shall not participate, directly or indirectly, in payment for any premium or royalty on any patented or proprietary material, specification, or process specifically set forth in the plans and specifications for a project, unless:

(1) Such patented or proprietary item is purchased or obtained through competitive bidding with equally suitable unpatented items; or

(2) The State highway agency certifies either that such patented or proprietary item is essential for synchronization with existing highway facilities, or that no equally suitable alternate exists; or

(3) Such patented or proprietary item is used for research or for a distinctive type of construction on relatively short sections of road for experimental purposes.

(b) When there is available for purchase more than one nonpatented, nonproprietary material, semifinished or finished article or product that will fulfill the requirements for an item of work of a project and these available materials or products are judged to be of satisfactory quality and equally acceptable on the basis of engineering analysis and the anticipated prices for the related item(s) of work are estimated to be approximately the same, the PS&E for the project shall either contain or include by reference the specifications for each such material or product that is considered acceptable for incorporation in the work. If the State highway agency wishes to substitute some other acceptable material or product for the material or product designated by the successful bidder or bid as the lowest alternate, and such substitution results in an increase in costs, there will not be Federal‑aid participation in any increase in costs.

(c) A State highway agency may require a specific material or product when there are other acceptable materials and products, when such specific choice is approved by the Division Administrator as being in the public interest. When the Division Administrator's approval is not obtained, the item will be nonparticipating unless bidding procedures are used that establish the unit price of each acceptable alternative. In this case Federal‑aid participation will be based on the lowest price so established.

(d) Appendix A sets forth the FHWA requirements regarding (1) the specification of alternative types of culvert pipes, and (2) the number and types of such alternatives which must be set forth in the specifications for various types of drainage installations.

(e) Reference in specifications and on plans to single trade name materials will not be approved on Federal‑aid contracts.


Safety Home | FHWA Home | Feedback

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration


Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives