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Friday, July 15, 2011

How Your Sound Wall Sausage Gets Made

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM


Any mom, pop, Bob, Jane, or little Mary can take one glance at the sound walls bordering the highway and realize in just a few seconds that they are both useless and mighty expensive.

As sound walls began popping up years ago, plenty of journalists cast a wary eye toward the concrete monstrosities, finding that yes, they are expensive (more than $1 million per mile), yes, they are useless according to many studies, yes, few residents actually care about them, and yes, ODOT installs them just about everywhere anyway.

A fresh batch of outrage is in order thanks to Bob Dyer's recent ABJ piece on a section of sound walls on I-77 that were torn down and will be rebuilt for the third time. Yes, the third time. The first version began to crumble and sink in just three months.

Version III, which will cost another $409,000 according to the piece, is necessitated because one resident called complaining that noise was still too loud and ODOT sent someone out who discovered... well, just read for yourself:

“It was determined that the existing noise-wall section does not block the line of sight to all I-77 traffic from the first floors of the existing houses.”

The line of sight? I thought these things were sound walls!

Well, ODOT says, its regulations call for the walls to block the view, too.

Wait, it gets even better.

The reason ODOT didn’t comply with its own regulation in the first place is that when the engineering wizards drew up the plan, they mistook the walkout basements for first floors, and mistook the first floors for second floors.

I swear I am not making this up.

So now our tax dollars are being used to yank out a 5-year-old wall, which was 7 feet high, and build a new wall, which will be 9 feet high.

The wall also will be lengthened by 180 feet.

Dyer has plenty of other horribly depressing details, including who ODOT polls in communities to determine whether a wall should be built and the small, small fraction of residents who care enough to respond to the inquiry.

We won't even get into the sound wall on I-71 southbound just before the 176 split, which is a debacle on a whole other level.

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