When driving down the highway, most motorists don’t think about the fencing structures built to enhance safety, reduce noise, deter animals and generally mitigate other risks. But the design and implementation of highway fencing is both essential and complex.

Constructing effective fencing along a traveled highway requires a well-thought-out approach and precise knowledge of the materials and specifications related to the project.

To help highlight the different purposes, forms and considerations for highway fencing, this article provides a number of informative insights.

Highway Fencing Needs & Applications

Highway fencing is employed in various types of settings and for a multitude of different reasons. Generally speaking, it is intended to separate the drivable roadway from the surrounding area, though there are more granular requirements at play. Here are some of the most common functions: 

  • Sound barrier: Typically applied in urban and suburban areas, fencing in the form of sound barriers (or sound walls) is erected to contain noise stemming from vehicular traffic. There are two types of sound barriers used along highways. One is a reflective wall, which serves to block sound waves and reflect them back to the area from which they came. The other is an absorptive wall, constructed from porous and textured materials to help intercept and absorb the sound waves.
  • Right-of-way: Many interstate, state and local roadways implement highway fencing to control access to or restriction from the path of traffic. These fencing structures can serve as crash barriers, reducing the risk of collision between oncoming lanes, and they create a perimeter delineating the boundaries of the roadway. 
  • Rockfall protection: In areas along highways where sloped ground poses the risk of falling rocks, fencing is often applied to protect the roadway and prevent rockfall from reaching potential traffic. Fencing or walls designed with this purpose in mind mitigate the risk of falling rocks causing damage to a vehicle, person or structure. 
  • Fauna protection: The presence of animals on a highway can be particularly dangerous to both the animals themselves and the people driving along the road. Fencing is commonly utilized to alleviate this hazard and deter animals from accessing the highway. 
  • Bridge safety: Some states have passed legislation to address protective fencing on bridges over highways so as to protect pedestrians and motorists. In response to dangerous (and even lethal) incidents of rocks or other projectiles being thrown over bridges or overpasses onto the highway below, fencing has been erected to thwart this type of activity. 

Popular Types of Highway Fencing Materials

The design and use of materials for constructing highway fencing should be determined based on a multitude of factors, including the type of need or application (like those listed above), the highway setting, the flow of traffic, the surrounding landscape, access specifications, governing laws and regulations, and more. To create a more robust understanding of these dynamics, following are some of the most common material and structural choices for building highway fencing.

  • Chain link and woven wire mesh: Multi-level chain link fencing systems are widely used to help reduce accidents. Chain link can be applied either independently or in connection with other barriers to create an effective fencing structure. It is a cost-effective option and features both the flexibility and visibility to support risk prevention along highways. It is particularly useful at deterring wildlife while maintaining the local ecosystem. 
  • Precast concrete: This type of highway fencing is especially effective in terms of minimizing sound pollution. It can lessen perceived noise by as much as half, and it features both the strength and durability required in certain highway settings. Steel rebar or reinforcing mesh can be applied to create greater bonding of the material and prevent cracks. By adding absorption materials or texture, there is even greater capacity to block highway sounds from the surrounding areas. Color additives and textures can also be used to help the structures either blend in or stand out, depending on specific needs.  
  • Steel or aluminum guardrails: Guardrails along a highway serve to form a protective barrier and mitigate the danger to motorists who veer, swerve or drift off the roadway. When stopping the vehicle unimpeded is not a viable option, guardrails can help lessen the severity of a crash by deflecting, slowing or stopping the vehicle. Constructed from either steel or aluminum, guardrails are built and secured based on a post-and-beam model.

Compliance & Specifications for Highway Fencing Construction

As you can imagine, the many requirements and potential risks related to highway fencing mean that constructing them requires a specialized approach. In addition to the many specific needs of various settings and highway nuances, there are always regulatory and compliance issues to factor into the equation. 

It is of the utmost importance to understand and construct in accordance with governances on the local, state and federal level. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), for example, publishes a list of all specifications to which any contractor must adhere with regard to materials used for their projects. The vendor or manufacturer who supplies the fence materials to the contractor must be an approved PennDOT supplier. 

Given these challenges, it is necessary to contract the services of a highly experienced and knowledgeable professional in these areas, one who can recommend the right kind of highway fencing to meet unique needs and specifications, as well as carry out a high-quality installation process based on industry best practices for safety, reliability and compliance.

Rutkoski Fencing, Inc. is a pre-approved business partner for Pennsylvania highway projects and a registered business partner for state turnpike projects.

Download our free brochure to learn more about how Rutkoski Fencing can help with your next project.