University Avenue residents learn about noise walls

Blaine and Coon Rapids residents along a 1.6-mile stretch of University Avenue that will be reconstructed in 2014 and 2015 found out where noise walls could be located, as long as they are not opposed to it.

Blaine and Coon Rapids residents were invited to Blaine City Hall Dec. 11 to learn about where noise walls are proposed to be constructed, as long as residents are not opposed. Photo by Eric Hagen

Blaine and Coon Rapids residents were invited to Blaine City Hall Dec. 11 to learn about where noise walls are proposed to be constructed, as long as residents are not opposed. Photo by Eric Hagen

University Avenue between 109th Avenue/Northdale Boulevard and Main Street N.W./125th Avenue N.E. averages 14,000 vehicles a day, but the county estimates that traffic volumes by 2034 will range from 18,000 to 22,000 vehicles a day.

To ease congestion seen today and to facilitate traffic growth, the Anoka County Highway Department is proposing a total reconstruction.

Federal funding in the amount of $6,364,800 will cover most project costs to widen the road from two to four lanes, add a concrete median, widen the shoulders, construct eight-foot pedestrian/bicycle paths on both sides of the road and improve existing bus stops with pedestrian ramps or curb cuts.

Anoka County has already held two open houses on this project. Its third open house on Dec. 11 at Blaine City Hall focused on noise walls.

Duane Newham of Blaine said University Avenue traffic really increased once Highway 610 was constructed.

There are times when traffic is so backed up that he and people stuck in traffic wave to each other while he is cooking out on his deck. He supports the reconstruction project and the noise wall.

“By the time I’m on my deck, the noise is incredible already,” he said.

Kory Johnson of Coon Rapids said, “I think it’s very important,” when asked for his impressions.

Seven different noise wall segments are proposed with the height ranging from eight to 11 feet. Jason Orcutt of the Anoka County Highway Department said the greater the noise, the higher the wall needs to be.

Richard Erickson, a right of way specialist for the county highway department said this is why noise walls are so much taller by interstates.

Higher elevation or taller homes also impact the noise wall height, Orcutt said.

Just because a noise wall is included on a project map today does not mean it will go in.

Becky Haydon, project engineer with WSB & Associates, said residents in areas where a noise wall is proposed and the decibel level would increase by five decibels or more by the year 2034 could choose to oppose the noise wall. If a majority of these property owners opt out, the wall would not be constructed.

Votes must be mailed to Orcutt at the county highway department by Jan. 18, 2013. The vote form and a pre-paid stamped envelope was included in the notice mailed out to residents.

According to Haydon, the federal law used to require people to vote for a noise wall, but the law changed a year ago to require people to opt out.

Those whose noise would increase by less than five decibels do not get to vote. These are typically people living close to the end of a noise wall, Haydon said.

About 120 notices went out regarding the Dec. 11 meeting to property owners who could have a noise wall in front of their property or nearby. According to Haydon, 80 people along the seven different noise wall segments get to vote.

The noise wall analysis looked at more than noise levels. In one case, numerous driveway entrances would make it impossible to have a continuous noise wall that would adequately reduce the volume of traffic for these residents.

In another case, homes are farther from the road and their driveways front another interior city street due to a wetland along University Avenue. This separation and a box culvert going under the road made a noise wall impossible for this area.

There will be no noise wall in front of the Morningside Memorial Gardens.

The noise wall has to be cost-effective as well, Haydon said.

Noise monitoring took place in November 2011, she said.

Traffic was heavier than it normally would be on University Avenue due to the Main Street reconstruction closure, but Haydon said the noise level numbers were adjusted to reflect this.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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