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The Sound of Ideas

Sound Walls and Fury

Posted Thursday, July 29, 2010

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Sound Walls and Fury Highway noise barriers are meant to quiet the sound of traffic for neighbors, but they're generating a roar of their own. Some residents complain that the drab concrete walls, such as those being installed along I-71 in Cleveland's Brooklyn Centre neighborhood, are just plain ugly. They want a better look, perhaps natural barriers like walls made of vegetation being tried elsewhere in Ohio. How to get sound walls that are pleasing to both the ear and the eye, Thursday at 9:00 on 90.3.


Environment, Government/Politics, Other, Community/Human Interest, Transportation


Brian Cummins, Ward 14, Cleveland City Council
Dale Schiavoni, Transportation Planning and Programs Administrator, ODOT District 12
Ken Wohlgemuth, Brooklyn Centre resident
Bob Dyer, columnist, Akron Beacon Journal
David C. Barnett, ideastream

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Ethan 8:32 AM 7/29/10

I live in Fairlawn, within 700 feet of I-77, and it is very loud. The walls stop about a mile before our house, so we hear trucks engine breaking all day and all night. Contrary to what the caller is saying, all of my neighbors would like less noise. We are used to it, but would certainly like to see the noise improve. Our local government reps seem less than enthusiastic about getting more walls built. If we want to push for the walls, or an alternative, to get built, what should we do?

Noel alcala 8:37 AM 7/29/10

Some states consider “no response” a “yes” vote for a noise wall.  ODOT doesn’t do that.  ODOT cares about taxpayers money.

Anne 8:37 AM 7/29/10

To the point of buyer beware: Taxes should not fund this project. The folks who buy homes should do due diligence, as the rest of us do, on location of the home and the neighborhood’s assets and detriments. There are very few folks remaining who purchased--50-60 years ago--the homes prior to the highways.

Noel Alcala 8:39 AM 7/29/10

ODOT will not build noise walls that are not effective.  Thats based on noise analyses and computer modeling.

Noel alcala 9:00 AM 7/29/10

ODOT has to follow federal policies for noise walls, period.  Green/Living noise walls need to be studied before ODOT can build them, period.

Bob Gardin 3:12 PM 7/29/10

I can’t understand why the panelists didn’t mention the potential relocation of the parallel access roads lower and closer to this section of I-71 (Between W. 25th and Fulton Roads). ODOT proposed doing so as part of its Innerbelt Study through 2004. (I served on the Innerbelt Scoping Committee 2001-2004). Although the proposal was later dropped due to lack of near term funding, it could have been reconsidered in future years. Relocating the access roads could have provided the 20-40 feet needed for a vegetated “Delta Wall” mentioned during this radio show. If the community had more opportunity for input and further study, I believe forgoing the present sound wall design in favor of future relocation alternatives could have been agreed to.

lmcshane 7:03 PM 7/29/10

Thank you David C. Barnett for following up on this story, but no mention was made of the fact that residents were under the impression first that this stretch of I-71 would be reconfigured under Inner Belt project.  It’s been a betrayal of trust under Rokakis, Gordon, then Lipovan, Santiago and, now, even Cummins, who is a political outsider, but always going along with the political agenda, while trying to maintain his “outsider” status.

Bob 8:15 AM 7/30/10

I like the clear noise barriers that don’t block the views

Walton 7:54 AM 8/3/10

Today’s WCPN program on anti-noise walls raised my blood pressure. I did research on noise at NASA for several years from the late ‘50s into the ‘70s. I nearly lost my job for openly opposing the supersonic transport
(SST) because of its noise. Anti-noise walls generally aren’t too effective because the wavelengths of noises are comparable to the wall dimensions. This allows the noise to be diffracted and refracted over the tops of the walls and through holes in the walls into the region behind the walls. The real solution of the highway noise problem is to be found at the source, namely the vehicles themselves.

I moved to Middleburg Heights in 1969 to get away from aircraft noise along extensions of Cleveland Hopkins Airport runways. My plan failed because the planes were directed to turn right over my house. This problem was ultimately alleviated when planes were allowed to scatter toward their destinations immediately after takeoff. Then the freeways became the major noise problem. I live about a mile east of I-71 and a mile north of the Ohio Turnpike. On warm, windless, summer nights the noise was deafening. Late one night when I measured a noise level of 70 dB on my front steps, I drove down to I-71 to determine the cause of the high noise level. There were no automobiles, only occasional trucks spaced about a mile apart! Ultimately the truck noise problem was reduced by redesigning the tire treads. Within the next few years the automobile problem will be solved automatically by replacing high-powered gasoline cars with hybrids or electric cars. (Already some are demanding that electrics should make more noise to accommodate the
deaf.) Trucks will remain the major source of freeway noise. I am quite certain that, if acoustic sciences are applied to the truck noise problem, it can be readily solved. I believe that the trick is to apply well-known muffler techniques to eliminate the pure tones and reduce the engine exhaust velocity to silence the broad-band noise. (Years ago at NASA I received a complaint regarding a very noisy heating system that prevented cockpit conversation. I proposed that the heating duct be enlarged so as to slow the flow velocity. A few weeks later I received a phone call expressing amazement at how effective that simple solution was.)

The natural center for managing the noise problem is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose efforts were undoubtedly stymied by the G.W.
Bush administration backed by the trucking industry because it would make trucks cost a few dollars more. The administration has changed for the better. The remaining problem is to mandate stronger anti-noise laws and enforcement, thus encouraging the industry to silence its products. Maybe in the next generation something will get done. Then, anti-noise walls might not be needed.


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