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Disney World guardrails: Several identified as potentially dangerous

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as Reedy Creek Improvement District, is reviewing 60+ guardrail issues flagged by a safety advocate.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Millions of cars drive the roads in and around Walt Disney World in Orlando every single year. It’s known as "The Most Magical Place on Earth."

But 10 Investigates has located dozens of improperly installed, "frankensteined" obsolete guardrails throughout Walt Disney World — adding to the many more we found across the state of Florida as part of our earlier investigation.

“My understanding guardrails are supposed to smush like an accordion, kind of give cushion. This thing impaled the truck like a harpoon,” said Charley Pike, who was involved in a guardrail accident 10 years ago.

Pike lost his leg after the truck he was riding hit an improperly installed guardrail just miles away from these Disney roads in Groveland, Florida.

“I was mad because if that guardrail wasn’t there, we would’ve been fine,” Pike said. “I felt cheated, kind of, and anger very — because of the whole situation.”

Safety advocate Steve Eimers was also angry after identifying more than 35 guardrails with potential problems in and around the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“How in the world, Disney's the most magical place on Earth, what? Come on you, you go to Disney, for, you know, this magical experience. And we have a guardrail that is frankensteined with a slotted rail,” Eimers said. “They've done stuff over the years like you know, you go to Disney, you're not going to fight mosquitoes because they've been very careful about standing water. 

“But we let these dangerous guardrails sit on our roadsides as you travel through to Epcot or wherever you're going, you know, they’ve got to prove they're a good corporate citizen of the state of Florida.” 

We first emailed Walt Disney World back in December when we located several questionable guardrail installations. They told us to email the Reedy Creek Improvement District administration since they oversee the roads heading into the parks. 

A spokesperson s emailed us back with a map of the boundary lines, saying:

“We have reviewed the list you provided of 28 guardrail locations. Of the 28 locations, 10 are on roadways owned and maintained by RCID (District locations are 2,3,8-15). The other 18 are on roadways owned and maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. 

The District roadways are designed in accordance with design standards developed and issued by the FDOT and FHWA at the time the roadways were constructed. We recognize that design standards change and evolve over time. In response, as part of the District’s annual maintenance program, we update our roadway improvements on a consistent basis. In 2017, the District initiated an evaluation program for guardrails. Following the evaluation, the District began modifying or replacing guardrails as appropriate. The program is approximately 50% complete and we anticipate completion within 2 years.”

MAP: Guardrails identified by Reedy Creek

But then when we sent the database of more than 60 problematic guardrails to both Disney World and Reedy Creek, nobody replied back to us. 

So then, we reached out to Brian Aungst Jr. — a board member of the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This entity formed earlier this year amid the fallout between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney over the state's Parental Rights in Education Law, called "Don't Say Gay" by critics because it had barred instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age-appropriate.

DATABASE: Improperly installed guardrails on Walt Disney World property

Aungst, too, wanted answers. He asked for it to be discussed at the next Board of Supervisors meeting for the district. On April 19, there was a presentation.

“There were 69 locations identified with 38 being on roadways owned and maintained by the district. The district guardrail locations identified in both inquiries are the first priority for us making improvements," said John Classe, district administrator for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. “To be thorough, the district has engaged a professional engineering firm to complete an update and review of all guardrail locations on district roadways using the same guidelines as FDOT. 

“I’ll have that within the next thirty days to have a complete program established.”

Aungst replied: “I'd like to see it accomplished sooner rather than later. And as you're budgeting for next year. I'd like to see that priority in terms of identifying particularly the most needed replacements first, but I like to get all that as soon as possible.”

To replace or repair the guardrails at Disney, the district estimates the cost will be around $13 million.

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