The state plans to add concrete noise-abatement walls along sections of Interstate 77 when toll lanes are added to the highway.The walls are a standard part of interstate projects where traffic noise affects nearby residents most acutely, state officials say.Iredell County and Huntersville have voted to approve the texture and color of the sections of noise-abatement walls that could fall within their jurisdictions. Cornelius only needs a few more details before its board makes a decision.The N.C. Department of Transportation conducted a traffic noise analysis along I-77 from Interstate 277 in uptown Charlotte into Iredell County, using predictions of the growth in traffic noise due to high-occupancy toll lanes over the next 20 to 30 years, said Greg Smith, a traffic noise and air quality supervisor with the department. Over the stretch of I-77 included in the HOT lane proposal, Smith said, 23 noise-abatement walls would be needed, most of which would be built south of Sunset Road in Mecklenburg County.The state has determined that walls are needed in areas where residents living closest to the interstate would benefit from a reduction in noise of at least five decibels, Smith said.N.C. DOT will pay for the concrete walls – Huntersville will have two sections; Cornelius and Mooresville will each have three – provided each governing body makes a selection from state-provided options, Smith said.Here’s where the walls will be built: Huntersville: Between I-77 north and Stone Hollow and Bexley Commons at Rosedale Apartments and between I-77 north and The Landings Apartments. Cornelius: Along both sides of I-77 next to Alexander Chase subdivision, Bexley at Lake Norman and Crown Harbor. Iredell County: Along I-77 south of Mooresville.“We’re trying to upgrade aesthetics,” Smith said, noting the options are an improvement from the concrete panels with steel piles previously used and commonly seen on Charlotte’s Interstate 485 outer loop.“We’re trying to improve with concrete columns and textures on the highway and public sides,” Smith said. “The concrete is cast into panels, and we’re giving municipalities three to four options of textures and spraying walls with stain-color options.”The Huntersville town board voted 6-0 at its Sept. 16 meeting to use the dry stone stack pattern in a brown that was one of more than 100 color options falling mainly in the gray and brown families. The selection will be used on each side of the wall that will run between I-77 north and Stone Hollow and Bexley Commons at Rosedale Apartments; as well as between I-77 north and The Landings Apartments.Iredell County Commissioners approved the ashlar brick pattern in a light gray resembling off-white by a 5-0 vote at its Sept. 3 meeting. Smith said as long as the walls continue to meet the state-mandated safety standards and provide the required level of sound buffering, a municipality can select material “above and beyond” what the state offers. However, that town would be responsible for the difference between what it would have cost the state and the alternative material selected, he said.Cornelius Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant said the town is waiting to receive pricing information comparing masonry walls such as brick to the state-funded precast concrete panels before the board votes.“It’s about cost as well as aesthetics, but there is a balance,” Grant said, noting any additional money for the wall would come from the town’s general fund. “The board and town staff are interested in achieving the best aesthetic look toward the neighborhoods and for our residents, as well as the folks who drive I-77, for the most cost-effective way we can.”‘They’re expensive’Smith said the cost of state-provided noise buffers varies – individual height depends on topography and a calculation of physical distance and the noise levels reaching the closest properties – but the national average is $2 million per mile, or $30-$35 per square foot. “They’re expensive,” Smith said.Earlier in the summer, N.C. DOT sent ballot cards to the properties that would be directly affected by noise buffers, Smith said, giving homeowners and tenants a two-to-three-week window to vote against the walls. Unless N.C. DOT receives a simple majority voting against a wall, the department will proceed with installing the buffer. “They have to tells us they don’t want it or we’ll build it … most people want the walls,” he said.None of the walls on the I-77 project were rejected by residents, Smith said. “A lot of times we don’t get enough ballots back to even amount to 50 percent of what we send out, much less 50 percent who say no … We got some e-mails from people questioning why their community wasn’t receiving a noise wall, or people who were very happy about getting one and wanting to know when would be built.”Smith said the walls will only be built if the HOT lane project moves forward, and noise walls are typically one of the last things the contractor builds. “If this is a three-year project and construction begins spring 2014, the walls would probably be going up late 2015 or 2016,” he said. “If you build them too early they can get in the way of other construction operations.”The specifics of each section of noise wall is needed from the affected municipalities before the entire project can be let out to bid, something Smith said he expects to happen this fall.
Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2013
I-77 to get noise-blocking walls
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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