traffic barrierwater-filled-barrier vs concrete barrier

Selecting the right traffic barrier is a matter of public safety, so it is important to take many things into consideration before making your decision. Barriers solve a lot of problems, reduce risks in the roadway, and save a lot of lives. One type of barrier is concrete or “Jersey” barrier. This type of barrier has one job and does it really well: preventing errant vehicles from causing harm to construction workers on high-speed roadways (usually defined as speeds greater than 45 miles per hour). Other types, such as water-filled barrier, can be used to redirect those errant vehicles into spaces, such as unoccupied patches of grass, where they will do no harm.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the key differences between water-filled and concrete barriers so that you can feel confident you’re choosing the right barrier system for your next project.


The Basics: PCBs and WFBs

Portable concrete barriers (PCBs), which are also known as Jersey barriers, K-rail, and concrete barricades, are solid concrete structures that separate work crews and motorists. If a rogue motorist collides with a concrete barrier, their car will come to an immediate stop due to the barrier’s gating effect or at least be redirected from roadway workers. This ensures the protection of roadside workers by preventing all cars from passing through. In addition, concrete barriers provide flexibility: Work crews can allow more travel lanes to remain open during peak traffic times, while expanding the work area during off-peak periods.

Water-filled barriers (WFBs), also called water-filled barricades, are lightweight and portable alternatives to concrete barriers. They are highly visible and contrary to their name, can be used with or without water when regulations allow. Filling WFB with sand and/or using without water does not meet DOT Standards.  Water-filled barriers are easily transported and often filled with water or sand for added strength. Both concrete and water-filled barriers can be used in urban and low-speed construction zones: however, WFB is more common in that type of setting.  Both can also be used for channelizing vehicles and pedestrians when traffic control is required for special events.

Key Differences

While both structures provide essentially the same function, there are several key differences including, but not limited to application, budget, and speed of the roadway. 

Concrete barriers are typically used in high-speed areas such as interstates or highways. Water-filled barriers are typically used in areas of low-speed and/or lower traffic volume. Water-filled barrier is lighter and therefore does not require any equipment to be installed.  Because of the weight of concrete barrier, equipment is required for placement and installation.  

There are pros and cons about both types of barrier.  Water-filled barriers are more expensive, but smaller in size and weight. They are more fragile than concrete barrier but can be transported at a lower cost. Concrete barrier is more of a challenge to transport, store, and maneuver due to its size and weight. It is also important to think about water accessibility when considering water-filled barrier. A water truck could be necessary if no water source is available. 

Carolina Traffic Devices: Your Barrier Solution Is Right Here

At Carolina Traffic Devices, we sell durable, high-quality concrete and water-filled barriers. Our products are approved by most major transportation departments in the southeast, including NCDOT, VDOT, SCDOT, and GDOT. Contact us today to get the solution set that meets the requirements of your next project.

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