I-91 Noise Barrier Headed For Bradley Street

Allan Appel PhotoAfter years of enduring thrumming tires and lungs-full of particulate matter from the highway next door, longtime Lyon Street dwellers like Alina Badus and John Parejko (pictured) will soon get relief, maybe as soon as this summer or fall.

That welcome news came Thursday night at a public information meeting convened by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) at the Conte/West Hills School.

About two dozen Wooster Square-ites braved the frigid night air to hear that after years of lobbying by sleep-deprived residents, state Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and Alderman Michael Smart, the DOT has found a way to begin erecting a barrier wall that will lower noise levels by 7 decibels from the stretch of I-91 that runs through the neighborhood.

According to plans unveiled by DOT’s Assistant District Engineer Brian Mercure, the timber barrier wall will rise 15 feet high and essentially match the noise barrier wall where the highway runs cheek by jowl with Farnam Courts.

This new edition will stretch about three football fields, or 900 feet, on I-91 southbound from the existing barrier near Grand Avenue, past Lyon and William streets, along the Trumbull Street on-ramp until the Amtrak train tracks.

It will cost an estimated $1.5 million to build. Rather than be bid out as a separate project, it will be folded into the ongoing work of the contractors currently working on the $350 million interchange project, which accompanies the redo of the Q Bridge.

Click here for a previous article on the commitment DOT made in March to overcome the bureaucratic obstacles to make the Bradley noise barrier project happen.

Chief among those was scoping the project as an amendment to current work as opposed to an additional job requiring a separate bid.

That has been achieved.

Thursday night’s meeting was generally an appreciation-fest, with DOT Commissioner James Redeker attendeding, along with Smart and Looney.

“This is the culmination of lengthy advocacy ever since 2003,” when the Farnam barrier was erected, Looney said.

In the midst of widespread approval, neighbors posed questions about graffiti, vegetation replacement, and maintenance.

John Berkett of Grand Avenue asked DOT Project Engineer John Duzinski if the pressure treated lumber is graffiti-resistant.

Answer: No. But DOT promises to clean and maintain the defaced sections.

“We’ll have to tell them” about the graffiti, Berkett noted.

Mona Berman of Lyon Street, who had done her decibel homework, said that for every three feet of height, one more decibel of noise gets reduced. Why build only a 15-foot high wall? she asked. Why not give us 20 feet and more peace and quiet?

DOT noise maven Paul Dickey replied that the 7 decibel reduction will be noticeable, much more so for those living closer to the highway, less for those living farther away. The reduction becomes negligible beyond 300 feet, he said..

“At 20 feet, it’s [the barrier] considered unreasonable, cost-wise,” he added.

Mercure said that in response to neighbors’ concerns about the loss of trees in construction, the new barrier wall project will thin trees and vegetation as minimally as possible. He said the project allows for no replacement of trees.

“I’d like to see more trees,” Smart said. His plans call for a walk-through with DOT officials on Monday.

The surveying and preparation of the ground should begin in the spring or summer and finish by the fall, said Mercure. In all, the physical work of the barrier construction will take three months. All the buzzing, hammering, chipping, and bolting is to be done only in the day time, Mercure added.

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posted by: anonymous on January 25, 2013  11:24am

New studies prove that these barriers reduce pollution,  not just noise.

As such, the name should be changed from “noise barrier walls” to “pollution barrier walls,” and they should be implemented citywide. 

Until these are implemented, there should be no more road construction.

Where has the Mayor been on this life-critical issue?  DOT can no longer get away with killing residents through its policies.  We need a leader of DOT and a leader of the City of New Haven who from a budget perspective, puts people’s health first, road widening second.

posted by: Kevin on January 25, 2013  6:22pm

The headline is a little misleading, since the barrier will only help the short stretch of Bradley Street in Wooster Square. It may actually slightly increase noise levels on the longer stretch between State and Whitney by reflecting noise northwards.

posted by: anonymous on January 27, 2013  8:13pm

Kevin, the popular belief that noise increases on the other side of the highway from newly-installed pollution barriers is a myth—probably one spread by the DOT and other government bureaucrats to try to break communities into warring factions so that they don’t get barriers.

That said, State Street, and every other part of the city near the highway, needs barriers too, given the new research showing large decreases in particulate air pollution following barrier installation. 

Given the rapidly rising asthma rates, all highway construction statewide should be stopped until the children in our cities and towns are protected from this deadly pollution.