Utah Department of Transportation moving forward with vote for noise abatement measure
New design replaces 18-foot concrete wall proposal
The Utah Department of Transportation announced on Monday it plans to move forward with the balloting process to determine whether a new design — combination berm and a wall — should be constructed on Interstate 80 near Jeremy Ranch to mitigate traffic noises.
If approved, it would be the first noise abatement measure of its kind in Summit County.
For the last several weeks, the Utah Department of Transportation has been exploring different design options for berms after residents overwhelmingly spoke out against plans for an 18-foot-tall concrete wall. It would have extended 3,000 feet along the westbound lanes of the interstate between the Jeremy Ranch on-ramp and Hidden Cove Road.
After pushback from residents who live nearby and subsequent meetings with Summit County’s elected leaders, UDOT determined a combination of a berm and a wall would also meet federal standards for noise abatement, according to an email sent to The Park Record on Monday from the UDOT Renovate I-80 project team.
“It has been determined that a wall with panels ranging between 7 and 17 feet on top of a variable-height berm would meet federal guidelines and adhere to UDOT’s Noise Abatement Policy, while eliminating the need for a solid concrete 18-foot wall, as originally proposed,” the email read.
Last winter, an environmental analysis was completed 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. The study revealed current traffic noise levels in lower Jeremy Ranch warrant mitigation and the additional lane will only slightly increase the problem.
Homeowners within a certain range of the highway are considered benefitted receptors and will have the opportunity to vote on the project. Ballots are scheduled to be sent later this month. Respondents will have four weeks to return them.
Of the 24 homeowners that will be allowed to vote, 75 percent must return their ballots, and only 75 percent of those, must be in favor of the wall in order for it to be built.
Rex Hardy is a Jeremy Ranch homeowner who lives along the second hole of the Jeremy Ranch Golf Course and one of the voters.
“I support it,” he said. “I live right along the highway there and we have seen the steady increase of noise over the years as traffic has increased. It has reached a threshold that is kind of getting out of hand.”
Hardy said he can hear a “constant drone” when he is inside his home. He said it’s not just the semi-trucks and motorcycles, but the “constant noise levels that we can’t seem to escape.”
“Do we all want to live in a concrete jungle? Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m grateful for the consideration that the county has made and the input that has come as a result of UDOT expanding this project and hearing everyone’s opinion. At the end of the day, I want this done and want this taken care of according to federal sound regulations. But, I’m all for beautifying it and there are a lot of groups coming together to ensure this isn’t just some eyesore.”
Cherie Hooten, who also lives near the second hole of the golf course, said she is planning to vote in favor of the wall because the traffic noises are distracting. She has lived in her home for 15 years.
“I’ve had occasion to speak to most of the people who are voting and we are all in agreement that it is needed,” Hooten said. “I just hope the naysayers would understand if it were them in our position.”
Summit County Council Chair Chris Robinson said the Council has held at least three meetings with UDOT to discuss the issue. County Council members have been approached in recent weeks about the project by people urging them to ask UDOT to reconsider. However, he said the Council does not have the leverage to do that.
“We don’t have a lot of power,” he said. “We have met with UDOT to see if we have any leverage. But, even if the receptors vote to have it, there will, hopefully, still be a chance to sit down and, perhaps, the county and UDOT can negotiate something different.”
While the County Council is sympathetic to the homeowners complaining about the traffic noise, Robinson said, they are, in general, opposed to the prospect of a wall.
“We are respectful that some of our citizens are having troubles with the sound,” he said. “It’s not like we want to ignore their concerns. But, in the big picture, it would be good if it went away. Where does it stop? Are we going to have walls everywhere?”
UDOT had previously considered building a berm on the north side of Rasmussen Road, adjacent to the golf course. But, two underground high-pressure gas lines and wetlands prevented the project from going forward.
“We understand the sensitivities surrounding this issue within the community,” UDOT stated in the email. “We have worked to develop a potential solution that addresses concerns and still provides a noise benefit. We ask that neighbors be respectful of others in the community as this process moves forward.”
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