Jeremy Ranch residents sound off on noise wall
Twenty-four homeowners will have deciding vote
June 16, 2017
Standing near an 18-foot-long strip of black paper hanging from the ceiling, Jim Howell spoke frankly about why he would support a noise wall of that height along Interstate 80 near his home in a lower Jeremy Ranch neighborhood.
"I think it is a good project for our neighborhood because the noise is a health issue for the people that live on this side of the freeway," Howell said in an interview with The Park Record. "We have a new, high-end home with double-pane windows, but it still wakes you up if you are napping and it wakes my kids up, too."
Howell, along with 23 other homeowners, will be deciding whether a 3,000-foot-long concrete wall is needed to mitigate traffic sounds for those who live directly north of the Jeremy Ranch Golf Course. The wall would cost approximately $1.5 million and be funded entirely by UDOT.
Howell was one of nearly 100 people who attended an informational meeting about a recent noise study analysis UDOT conducted and the balloting process that would be required for approval. Seventy-five percent of affected homeowners, would have to return ballots and 75 percent of those ballots need to be in favor of the wall for it to be built.
"I totally acknowledge that in a democracy everyone votes in their own self-interest and the people who don't have noise are like, 'Why would I want a wall?'" Howell said. "But this is an opportunity to fix a health issue and there is also an economic discussion that needs to happen because it would really increase home values in these neighborhoods. It's a rising tide."
Riki Case, who lives in lower Jeremy Ranch and is in favor of the project, wondered why she is not considered an affected homeowner. She added, "We would absolutely benefit from this."
"In fact, why is this wall not being extended all the way to the end of the residences?" Case said. "I am very much in favor of the wall because there is a hill between us and other homes, but the sound travels up here and it's noisy for us."
Don Schroeder, also a Jeremy Ranch resident, said he was less apt to offer his endorsement of the project. However, Schroeder admitted he does not hear the sounds from the freeway at his home.
"It seems like an awful lot of money to me as a taxpayer. That's the way I'm looking at it," Schroeder said. "Now, if I lived next door to it I might have a different opinion, but it doesn't sound like it would do very much and it doesn't sound like we are at the threshold that the state and federal government has set."
Several Pinebrook homeowners voiced their objections to a noise wall because of the "detrimental visual impact" they said it would have on the area.
"I think the benefits would be negligible when weighed against the visual impact," said Larry Hardebeck, a Pinebrook resident. "I commute to Salt Lake and I see a much better use of those funds. I think it is a waste to spend the money on the wall."
Linda Haessler, another Pinebrook resident, also criticized the wall's appearance.
"The wall is going to be really ugly and I can't imagine it will do enough on noise to blow the view," Haessler said. "When you drive on the interstate in Denver it's really noticeable, which is where we moved from. It blocks the sun, it blocks the view and I am not in favor of it. But I do not have noise at my house, in particular, and I know the people higher up in their neighborhoods do hear it."
John Montoya, UDOT project manager, said representatives heard a range of comments during the meeting with some residents requesting noise walls be considered along other sections of the freeway.
"But we also heard a lot of concern that a noise wall is not appropriate for the surrounding environment," Montoya said. "I think what we heard was just a wide range of comments and that was our objective of the meeting, not only for us to hear differing perspectives, but for everyone else to hear from those who live closest to the highway.
"Hopefully everyone is better informed and better educated on what is coming and how this goes from here," he said. "If they are not satisfied they know how they might be able to affect the process, if not on this project, but on future projects."
Ballots will be sent at the end of June. Two weeks later, a certified ballot will be sent before the votes are tallied, Montoya said. If approved, the noise wall would likely be constructed in conjunction with a climbing-lane project that will add an additional westbound lane between Jeremy Ranch and Lamb's Canyon in the spring of 2018.