Interstate noise walls get early support

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Jim Leute
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

JANESVILLE—With more than one-third of the ballots already returned, support is overwhelming for noise barriers along an expanded Interstate 90/39 in Janesville.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation mailed information packets and ballots to affected neighbors of the expansion project's central segment, which runs from County O to the Dane County line.

The packets also included an invitation to a meeting Tuesday for a presentation on noise barriers. Those neighbors include property owners, renters and those living within 500 feet of each wall.

Todd Hertz of KL Engineering, a state consultant on the project, said at Tuesday's meeting that 129 ballots already have been returned, including 126 in favor of noise walls and three in opposition.

While it's been cut into three segments, the entire Interstate expansion runs about 45 miles from the Illinois state line to the Beltline in Madison.

The expansion project will start in 2015 and wrap up in 2021. Crews will:

-- Reconstruct and expand the Interstate from four to six lanes and reconfigure all 11 interchanges.

-- Expand the Interstate to eight lanes—four lanes in each direction—from Avalon Road south of Janesville to the Highway 26 interchange on the city's north side.

In addition to a variety of different interchanges, the department is proposing nine noise barriers, which will vary in height from 10 feet to 20 feet and will run across Interstate bridges.

The department estimates the cost of the barriers at $2.2 million per mile per side of the highway.

For the most part, they will be built near the Interstate. The roadway will have a 12-foot shoulder to a safety barrier, and then an additional four feet to the noise barrier.

In some cases—particularly along the northbound lanes between Ruger Avenue and Milwaukee Street—topography will push the barriers closer to homes, approximately three to eight feet off the right-of-way line.

Federal guidelines mandate that for a noise barrier to be constructed it must be feasible, reasonable and approved by a majority of people who live nearby. The department has determined the nine walls are feasible and reasonable, and now homeowners and renters have until Sept. 27 to cast their ballots.

Each of the nine barriers is getting a separate vote, and a simple majority for each will determine its fate.

Hertz said Tuesday that a proposed noise barrier near Kennedy Road north of Janesville already has enough votes to make it a certainty.

Once the voting closes, Hertz said the next step would be to determine the aesthetics of the walls, which will be built as the highway is constructed. Property owners and residents also will have a say in that process, he said.

He also said the barriers will create storm water issues that the department will address in coming months.

Last updated: 6:42 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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