Citizens Against the Wall refutes third-party review about noise abatement measure
December 6, 2017
Members of Citizens Against the Wall, the group opposing a noise abatement measure along Interstate 80 near Jeremy Ranch, continue to claim the Utah Department of Transportation is not adhering to its policies, despite a third-party review that found the agency followed protocol as it evaluated the measure.
UDOT requested the independent analysis of a noise assessment that was completed in anticipation of an upcoming pavement resurfacing project and addition of a new westbound climbing lane between Parley's summit and Jeremy Ranch. The noise assessment showed the need for a noise abatement measure to mitigate traffic sounds and spurred a discussion about a potential soundwall.
The review analyzed the noise assessment to determine whether UDOT followed proper policy and procedures for abatement of highway traffic noise and construction noise. According to the report, conducted by Horrocks Engineers, a firm out of Pleasant Grove, the noise assessment was considered "feasible and reasonable" in accordance with UDOT's noise abatement policy.
Members of Citizens Against the Wall have continuously claimed UDOT is not accurately depicting the cost of constructing the noise barrier, or the number of homes that would benefit from it. As proposed, the barrier would be a wall with panels ranging between 7 and 17 feet on top of a variable-height berm.
"It doesn't make any sense," said Tom Farkas, a member of Citizens Against the Wall's executive committee and a resident of South Ridge in Jeremy Ranch. "All of the inaccuracies, inconsistencies and errors would give anyone the creeps about whether this should go forward. If we use our numbers that we have consistently evaluated, it shows they don't meet the criteria. The bottom line is this shouldn't go to ballot, which it already has, and it can't be built."
John Montoya, UDOT's project manager, said the third-party review was completed so the original study could receive another analysis. He said UDOT's team was confident the appropriate action was taken and they were in compliance with policy, but they wanted to prove that was the case.
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"The review showed that there were some areas where there were judgment calls made, but that, overall, we were in compliance with the state policy and state and federal law," he said. "It showed that none of those calls would have made a difference in terms of feasible determination."
UDOT has said that 27 homeowners and the Jeremy Ranch Golf Course would benefit from a noise abatement measure. Ballots were sent on Nov. 30 to allow the 27 receptors to vote on whether they are in favor of a soundwall. Of the 27 ballots sent, 75 percent must be returned, with 75 percent of those in favor of the measure for it to be built.
"If UDOT had done their calculations correctly and had truly substantiated the benefit and they met their cost criteria, we would be comfortable with whatever decision the ballots and recipients would make," Farkas said. "That's the way the rules and regulations are. But, we are very confident that they haven't done their job of complying with their own policies. We are not trying to disadvantage the people, but they can only be benefited if UDOT is compliant."
Montoya said he continues to understand the proposed noise abatement measure is a personal issue for people and there are some who are still strongly opposed to it. He added, "They have a right to be."
"We don't have an opinion on that and they are certainly within their rights to challenge it legally and put up with whatever resistance they need to," he said. "We understand this happens at times and it's all part of the process. Maybe it will lead to changes in the policy. Maybe it won't."
Montoya said most of the ballots have been received. He said a few homeowners have not yet responded and they have until Dec. 14 to return their ballots. He said UDOT is hoping to receive all of the ballots back and will be tallying them during an internal meeting on Dec. 18, where a decision will be made about how to proceed based on the results.
John Gleason, a public information officer with UDOT, said the agency recognizes the importance of the issue and is committed to engaging with the community.
"We will continue to move forward with the balloting process and expect to make a final determination based on those results in the next several weeks," he said.