Pushback over noise wall proposed along Interstate 80 increases
Community members criticize approval process
June 23, 2017
When the Utah Department of Transportation held an informational meeting last week about a noise wall proposed along Interstate 80 near Jeremy Ranch, Sharon Cantwell was unable to attend.
Cantwell, who lives in Pinebrook, said she heard about the project, but didn't think much of it at the time. However, in the days following the meeting, Cantwell said she began receiving hundreds of emails from Pinebrook residents on a neighborhood social media forum criticizing the noise wall and an approval process that involved just a few addresses.
"None of us want an 18-foot-tall wall where 24 people are the ones who are solely going to make that decision," Cantwell said. "It almost seems like the input of the community doesn't matter and I'm sitting on sidelines thinking, 'My goodness, why didn't we understand earlier that it wasn't just an idea?'"
UDOT announced earlier this month that an environmental study revealed current traffic noise levels in the lower Jeremy Ranch neighborhood warrant mitigation, such as a noise wall. It was conducted in anticipation of a climbing-lane project that will add an additional westbound lane between Jeremy Ranch and Lamb's Canyon in the spring of 2018.
Homeowners within a certain range of Interstate 80 — approximately 24 homes located directly north of Jeremy Ranch Golf & Country Club — would need to approve the project. The wall would cost approximately $1.5 million and be funded entirely by UDOT.
If approved by affected property owners, a 3,000-foot-long concrete wall would be constructed along the westbound lanes of the interstate between the Jeremy Ranch on-ramp and Hidden Cove Road. It would likely be constructed in conjunction with the climbing-lane project in the spring of 2018.
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Cantwell, who is also a member of the nonprofit Save People Save Wildlife, said she is not only concerned about the visual impacts of the wall, but the effect it would have on the area's wildlife. The organization donated $50,000 to UDOT last year to install one mile of wildlife fencing.
"I am super concerned because the community is blowing up here about it," Cantwell said. "I would love to see this slowed down a bit so we can all get on the same page and have some of our questions answered.
"I don't want a wall," she said. "I live in Pinebrook and I can hear the freeway, but I knew it was there when I moved here. If this wall gets up, I expect it will be louder for the rest of us."
Several people have expressed similar concerns about the impacts of the noise wall and have approached Summit County Council members during recent meetings or via email urging them to intervene.
"It is very concerning that ultimately the process allows so few people to make a decision that impacts hundreds of affected surrounding property owners. I feel a great part of that decision should come from the affected community itself," Jean Hottinger, a Hidden Cove resident, stated in an email. "I believe Summit County Council is sensitive to the natural environment, including preservation of our beautiful view corridor. I ask the council to please keep in mind the goals and mission of the General Plan, and I encourage the council to step up, assist and stand with the residents to block this wall from being constructed."
John Montoya, UDOT project manager, had previously told The Park Record that ballots would be sent at the end of June. However, Montoya said on Friday that won't likely be the case.
"We are hearing a lot of concern in the area that would be affected from those who don't get to vote on the wall and we have been asked by Save People Save Wildlife to look into possibly delaying the ballot," Montoya said. "I don't think that we have a problem doing that."
While Montoya said the approval process won't likely change, he added, "we want to give people the opportunity to influence it."
"We want to make sure we are taking the time to hear the concerns. I don't think that we are in a hurry to ballot so it could take place sometime in July," Montoya said. "But, according to policy, I don't see an opportunity for outside entities to influence the overall decision because it is pretty strict. But we certainly don't want to short circuit someone who thinks they may have an avenue to influence the process."
Montoya said UDOT has scheduled a meeting with the County Council on July 12. It is unclear whether if it will be open to the public.
For more information about the I-80 project, contact UDOT's team at 888-528-9675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.