California Department of Transportation



In an effort to improve the aesthetics of Caltrans right of way, several Districts have requested to plant trees along the medians of low-speed highways. Current standards typically require trees, shrubs with multiple trunks or groups of small trees to be 30 feet from the traveled way unless shielded by a barrier. Currently, there are no suitable low-profile aesthetic barriers.

Caltrans developed a non-proprietary, permanent, low-profile, narrow barrier to be used with or without soil backing on the non-traffic side. The final design also accommodated the leading request for openings in a barrier which provide a more see-through appearance. The result of project is expected to improve highway aesthetics and reduce project permit delays by local agencies while maintaining motorist safety according to federal requirements.

Development of the Low Profile Barrier

The barrier design concept is shown in Figure 1 and the cross- sectional measurements are shown in Figure 2.

Guardrail System

Figure 1. Design concept of Low Profile Barrier

Guardrail System

Figure 2. Cross section (units are in inches)

At the mid-eastern side of the Caltrans Dynamic Test Facility, a 1600 cu. ft. (8 ft. x 2 ft. x 100 ft.) uniform soil bed was created for the barrier footing. The relative compaction for this soil bed measured 93%. Next, 330 cu. ft. (3.3 ft. x 1 ft. x 100 ft.) of soil was re-excavated in order to install the barrier footing. Prior to the concrete pour, reinforced steel and anchor bolts for the posts were positioned in the footing formwork. The compressive strength test of the concrete was 5890 psi. The completed barrier was 100 feet long with 9 posts spaced 10 feet with a nominal height of 18 inches.

lpb construction picture


lpb footing picture

Footing Close-Up

lpb post picture

Post Close-Up

lpb completed picture

Completed Barrier


Impact Conditions

Test 701 (NCHRP Report 350 Test 2-11)
Vehicle: 1990 GMC Sierra 2500 2WD Pickup
Impact Speed: 70.2 km/h
Impact Angle: 25.3°

Test 702 (NCHRP Report 350 Test 2-10)
Vehicle: 1995 Geo Metro
Impact Speed: 70.8 km/h
Impact Angle: 21.0°


High-speed Crash Test Videos
Test 701 Test 702
Across Across
Upstream Upstream
Downstream (Not Filmed) Downstream
OH Downstream OH Downstream
OH Upstream OH Upstream

Must have quicktime to view the Crash Test Videos. Quicktime is available here.

Related Documents and Links

Development and Testing of a Low Profile Barrier Final Report

FHWA Eligibility Letter



  1. Roadside Design Guide. American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials. Washington, DC. 2002 edition (3rd edition): 4-15.
  2. Highway Design Manual. State of California Department of Transportation. Sacramento, CA. 6th Edition: 900-4.
  3. Traffic Manual. State of California Department of Transportation. Sacramento, CA. Revised Sept. 13, 2002: Section 7-02
  4. Report 350, Recommended Procedures for the Safety Performance Evaluation of Highway Features. Transportation Research Board. Washington, DC. 1993.

Contact Information

Vue Her
Project Engineer

John Jewell
Senior Engineer

Bob Meline
Senior Engineer