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Failed I-5 noise reducers cost half the mayor’s 2011 Walk Bike Ride increase

While advocates fight to prevent a reduction in city walking, biking and transit funding compared to 2010, a $2.5 million noise reduction barrier was installed on I-5 that has failed to do anything. That’s half as much as Mayor McGinn’s proposed new funds for Walk Bike Ride projects in 2011. From KIRO:

“Fabric baffles” that were hung under the bridge were expected to absorb and break up noise from the Interstate 5 express lanes by as many as five decibels, the Washington State Department of Transportation said. But recent tests at sites around the bridge showed either no change or a change of only one or two decibels, WSDOT said.

“I haven’t noticed any reduction in the noise at all,” said Maret Lambert, who lives near the bridge.

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“I don’t know if it’s made a huge difference,” said Erin Richards, another resident nearby.

WSDOT isn’t refuting those assessments.

“It was less than what the models said,” Jim Laughlin with WSDOT said. “I think what we need to do now is look at why this is.”

The baffles cost the state $2.3 million and were part of a larger $7 million project.

While money of that scale is basically lit on fire for car-related projects, the walking, biking and transit funds appear vulnerable as the City Council axes some of the mayor’s proposed new parking-based revenue sources. At the same time, publications around the city declare that there is some kind of “war on cars” in Seattle, and that bikers are somehow to blame.

That’s not to say I am against noise reduction projects. As someone who has lived a block from I-5, I know how troublesome the omnipresent roar of cars speeding on asphalt can be. Noise is yet one more understated cost of car use. While it’s true that the I-5 project was funded by the state, I am hoping this failed noise reduction project is at least something of a reminder to everyone that the amount of money being requested for projects that help people walk, bike and take transit is peanuts compared to the amount of money poured into car-centric projects in this city.

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5 responses to “Failed I-5 noise reducers cost half the mayor’s 2011 Walk Bike Ride increase”

  1. mike archambault

    “car-related”, yes. However, your argument is misplaced. This study is trying to mitigate one of the many negative effects of cars. Traffic noise is one of the many externalized costs of driving–a subsidy paid by those affected by the noise (reduced property values, quality of life, etc.), not the drivers themselves who are creating the noise. According to the project page, the money for this study came entirely from funds paid for by drivers (2005 Gas Tax) that would otherwise have been spent on highways or other car-centric projects, in which case it INTERNALIZED a cost of driving. We should be loudly applauding and vehemently encouraging these type of projects.

    You’re definitely right that it’s a good reminder of the immense relative cost of our car infrastructure when this study costs HALF of McGinn’s 2011 Walk Bike Ride budget.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I am definitely in favor of gas taxes paying to try to clean up the messes (noise or otherwise) created by motor vehicle use. If responsibility to those affected by car use were factored into every car project, many of my anti-car arguments would go away. I am also in favor of gas taxes paying for bike lanes, sidewalks, light rail and city street maintenance, but that would be unconstitutional (WA Amendment 18) and make me a radical car-hater, I suppose. Those are all necessary mitigation expenses forced by the dominance of car use…

  2. joshuadf

    Indeed, a similar thing could be said of WSDOT’s recently completed $13.6m I-5 Roanoke Vicinity Noise Wall Project

  3. fake kemper freedman

    Seems, to me that this is really an instance of gas money being used for non-drivers. I mean, really, what the hell do these people think? Are they really of the opinion that they should be able to go near a huge freeway that cuts a city in half and not have to deal with an incredible amount of noise. They should just all buy cars and move to Bellevue. Thank god we don’t have any trains out there to discourage driving.

  4. doug

    I ride past this project every single day and I suspected that the baffles did nothing. It sure didn’t sound any quieter to me.

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