More Central Ohio Highways Are Lined With “Noise Walls.”

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Work crews today are installing more noise walls on the city’s north side. The pre-cast barriers are being put up around Sharon Woods Metro Park near the Interstate 270 and 71 interchange. Much of the north side from Easton on the east to the Sawmill road interchange on 270 and on I-71 north of 161 is now walled in. The Ohio Department of Transportation says barriers are designed to reduce traffic noise but some northeast side residents say they make little difference.

For 15 years, Jeff and Ruth Leist have lived on Batavia Road in Blendon Township. Their property abuts the I-270 easement just south of the Westerville exit. Last year, the Ohio Department of Transportation stripped the easement of all trees and bushes and put up a ten foot high pastel coloured concrete wall. Jeff Leist says the trees were prettier.

“It was probably a lot more eye-appealing, I guess, than an eight-foot high concrete wall, yeah.” Jeff and Ruth Liest were sitting on their front porch last evening. The couple says the background noise of traffic remains despite the wall. “It brought the noise down maybe a tad, I mean, not a lot. We’ve been living here so long we’ve been dealing with the noise, so it really hasn’t done alot.” Says Ruth Leist.

“You know, except for like peak points in the morning rush hour, rush hour in the evenings, its not really that bad except for at night when you hear the truckers go by and they hit them exhaust brakes and stuff like that. But, other than that, its not near as bad as people think.” Says Jeff Leist.

Bruce Ward of the Ohio Department of Transportation says a widening of the northeast side outerbelt prompted constrution of the noise walls. Ward says the walls are part of an effort to reduce highway noise, especially in residential areas

“So it is kind of a partnership between what we must do for environmental impact and of course the desire of the residential area, people close to the freeway wanting to mitigate some noise.” Says Ward.

Ward estimates the walls reduce noise by about half for residents within 450 to 600 feet behind the wall. But, the sound barriers come at a price. “About a million, million dollars a mile for a noise wall. And the cost for the roadway itself is slightly greater than that because again these are specifically designed, specifically built walls. They’re more than just a wall, or more than just a privacy curtain for example, or privacy wall. They actually function differently. They’re thicker. They’re made of different materials. Depending upon the design of the wall, the wall will actually have a coating on it that absorbs sound, in other cases it may reflect sound.” Says Ward.

Ward adds that more noise walls are planned along Interstate 71 south of 161 down into the Clintonville area. Back on Bataivia road, Ruth Leist says the sound of traffic is still familiar, even at a lower decibel level. “To us, anymore, I mean it just puts us to sleep at night.”

Tom Borgerding, WOSU News

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