Sara Jamison is hoping for more peaceful days and nights with her 1-year-old son now that the state has found a way to answer neighbors’ pleas to block noise and pollution from I-91.
Jamison (pictured with Eliot Soto) lives on Lyon Street, in a section of Wooster Square that was split by Interstate 91. Neighbors there have been complaining for years about the sound of traffic, especially the roar of down-shifting trucks at 4:30 every morning.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) said Thursday that after years of lobbying from Alderman Mike Smart and State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, it will find a way to create a sound barrier separating Lyon and William streets from the highway.
“We are committed to doing this,” said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick Thursday.
He said the state has asked a contractor for a quote on the project. The project’s timetable will depend on whether that price is “favorable.”
The project had sat on the state’s list for the Statewide Retrofit Noise Barrier Program. The state hadn’t funded that program in 20 years. So it wasn’t going anywhere.
Nursick said Thursday the state has come up with a new plan to get the federal government to finance the project.
The feds don’t usually pay for sound barriers unless there’s an increase in capacity on a nearby road, Nursick said. The DOT has had some luck lately getting federal money for sound barriers as part of the massive, $350 million redo of the interchange between Interstates 91 and 95 and Route 34. The federal government is paying 87 percent of that project, the state the rest.
That’s how the new sound barriers rose near Howard Avenue over I-95, Nursick said.
So the state decided to propose that Lyon Street’s sound barrier be added to the $350 million interchange project, which accompanies the redo of the Q Bridge. The tactic worked—the federal government gave an “initial nod” the idea, Nursick said.
He said the plan—and the timetable—depend on the cost.
The state has asked O and G Industries of Torrington, Conn., the contractor at work on the interchange project, to come up with a price for building the sound barrier as a change order to its current contract. Since the contractor is already out there doing work, the state could save money through this method, Nursick said.
If the price is favorable, the DOT hopes to weave in the sound barrier “sooner than later,” as part of the existing work, which is set to be completed before November 2016.
If the price isn’t favorable, Nursick said, “there’s a good potential that we would go out to bid on a stand-alone project” to build the sound barrier.
The barrier would stretch 800 feet from an existing barrier near Grand Avenue on the southbound side of I-91, past Lyon and William streets, along the Trumbull Street on-ramp until the train tracks, he said.
Nursick called the new plan an “out-of-the-box” solution.
“We’ve known there’s been a request for and a need for sound barriers in that area,” he said, but finding money has been difficult.
Alderman Smart, who lives right next to the highway on Lyon, said he got word Thursday of the state’s new commitment.
“It’s great news that residents will finally have some peace and protection from the noise and pollution from the highway that they’ve suffered for decades,” Smart said.
Sen. Looney was a major “driving force” behind weaving the sound barrier into the existing highway work, Nursick said.
Looney Thursday welcomed the news. He noted that after he successfully lobbied for a sound barrier (pictured) that was installed in 2003 on the other side of I-91, by Farnam Courts, it had the unfortunate effect of reflecting sound back across the highway to Lyon Street.
He noted that Malloy’s DOT commissioner, James Redeker, responded to New Haveners’ pleas to rescue a nature preserve from a DOT bulldozer.
“The DOT is certainly proving itself responsive to the needs of the New Haven community as it is impacted by highway construction,” he said.
Back on Lyon Street, young Eliot’s dad, Pedro Soto, said he has just installed a second storm window in his baby’s room to soften the noise.
“This will definitely be a plus to have the background noise go down to a level that will be healthier for everyone and less stressful,” he said.
Eliot’s mom, Jamison, found the noise a rude awakening when she moved onto the street.
“My first night on this street, I couldn’t believe I moved here,” she recalled, standing under the din of the highway. “It’s like a roadside motel.”
She and Soto crank up an air filter at night to create white noise so they can sleep.
“It would be nice to have more peace and quiet,” she said.
Further down the street, 28-year Lyon Street resident Andy Brancuccio said he never sleeps with his window open because of the noise. He was skeptical about the new solution.
“I half believe it, and half don’t believe it, because I’ve heard that before,” he said.
When it comes to “funding issues,” he said, “nothing is guaranteed.”