Southeast Mpls. residents to vote on noise walls

9:06 PM, Jul 23, 2013   |    comments
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Minneapolis noise barrier
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  • MnDOT Noise Wall Open Houses
  • MnDOT 4th Street Ramp Noise Page
  • MINNEAPOLIS -- Residents of three southeast Minneapolis neighborhoods along Interstate 35W will decide by a mail-in vote in August whether to accept noise barrier walls.

    "There are six proposed walls along that corridor and each of the walls get voted on individually," Minnesota Department of Transportation Engineer Scott Pedersen told KARE Tuesday.

    The reason it's an issue now is because of a new interstate ramp project on the other side of the Mississippi River which will connect 4th Street South with the northbound lanes of I-35W.

    The auxiliary lanes connected to that project will stretch into the Marcy-Holmes, Como Park and Beltrami-Northeast neighborhoods.  As part of the ramp work, MnDOT was required to measure the noise levels along the interstate in those neighborhoods.

    "That type of project requires us to analyze the noise and propose mitigation to mitigate that noise," Pedersen explained.

    Currently, in those areas the noise readings range from 70 to 79 decibels and Pedersen says the new ramp won't really add very much new noise to the mix. But those readings already fall within the range that automatically triggers noise barriers under federal policy.

    "So the noise levels aren't going to increase, but being that they're over the standards, we have to consider that mitigation for them," Pedersen said.

    "Those noise walls would cut the traffic noise at least five decibels for those living right next to the interstate."

    Only those who live -- or own housing -- within one block of the interstate will get ballots from MnDOT.  A full 50 percent of all the points must come down on the "NO" side in order to stop construction of the walls.

    The scoring system awards homeowners more points than renters, and it gives those who live immediately next to the freeway more points than those who live elsewhere in the block.

    A non-response counts as a "YES" vote in MnDOT's balloting system.

    "We're hoping that the small group of people given the right to vote on this noise wall project will vote no," Cordelia Pierson, the president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, told KARE.

    "With those 20-foot high sound walls we will lose so much, in terms of livability and neighborhood cohesiveness."

    Pierson said the sound barriers, made of concrete posts and painted wooden planks, would encourage graffiti and block sight lines for those crossing the interstate on pedestrian and bicycle bridges.

    She said it would also undo landscaping the neighborhood group installed to soften the impact of the six-lane freeway that cuts through the city's oldest neighborhood.

    "Years ago 400 of us gathered together and planted trees, plants, flowering plants along this same area. All of those will be torn out to put in these 20-foot sound walls."

    Pierson's concerned that many of those most affected won't be around during the month of August when the balloting occurs. She said many homeowners will be on vacation during that time and University of Minnesota students returning for the fall semester may not get settled.

    "That's why it's so important that people to vote and return their ballots," Pedersen stressed, "Especially if they don't want the noise wall."

    MnDOT has mailed brochures explaining the process to those who will be receiving ballots. The agency is also holding a series of public meetings with the neighborhood groups this week.

    (Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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