Tom Clyde: I-80’s noise problem could be worse. It could be musical.
I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the Jeremy Ranch noise wall debate. It’s obviously very important to the people who live there. It’s one of those issues that presents two inconsistent things that are both true. Freeways are noisy, and noise walls are ugly. So by trying to mitigate one problem, we create another one. Noise walls are not completely effective, but as a canvas for graffiti, they are extremely popular.
The arguments quickly become circular. The freeway was there long before the houses were built, so people knew they were moving in next to a freeway. But the traffic has increased enormously through the years, and now an additional lane is being added that puts the traffic closer to the houses. Some of that traffic is generated by people in Jeremy Ranch who (like most of us) commute somewhere every day for work. So we need an ugly wall to mitigate the noise impact of the traffic that wouldn’t be there if the houses we were trying to protect from the noise had been built closer to where people work. But the bulk of the traffic is not local. I-80 is a major transportation corridor for the entire nation.
It could be worse. I was catching up on news from the Netherlands, and an item from the town of Jelsum caught my eye. According to an article I saw online (making it gospel truth, for sure), Sietske Poepjes, the local Minister of Infrastructure and Cultural Affairs, said they had designed the road in a unique way. First, it’s interesting that they have merged infrastructure and cultural affairs. And you thought it was a stretch that the County is hiring a famous graffiti artist to paint the tunnel between Redstone and Walmart. Apparently, we should appreciate local food, but not local graffiti.
But that is an aside. The road was used to test a new paint product, which is apparently somewhat lumpy, or perhaps combined with rumble strips. When drivers drive along the road at 40 mph (which Dutch drivers wouldn’t do because they are on the metric system—this could be fake news), the vibration caused by the tires hitting the rumble strips play out the Frisian national anthem. The Minister of Infrastructure and Culture said it works very well.
“You can really hear the melody,” Poepjes told the BBC.
Local residents complained that the “Frisian national anthem is fun, but not 24 hours a day. It really makes you deaf, you cannot sit outside anymore, you do not sleep at night, and that vuvuzela whimper makes us crazy.”
The highway department agreed to remove the rumble strips.
So there you have it. The roar of the traffic at Jeremy Ranch is obnoxious, and carries surprisingly far from the freeway. But it’s just the roar of traffic. If the State of Utah had merged the highway department with the arts and culture people, the freeway could be equipped with rumble strips that play the Utah State Anthem.
I wanted to get a sense of what the Utah anthem, played by freeway rumble strips, would sound like. It became confusing. The official Utah state song was “Utah, We Love Thee!” It sounds like an English pub song with cleaned-up lyrics. It was written as part of the statehood celebration. As state songs go, it’s a disappointment. It’s no “Georgia on My Mind,” or “Back Home Again in Indiana.” It can’t hold a candle to “Stars Fell on Alabama.”
In 2003, the state legislature decided to upgrade the state song, and demoted “Utah We Love Thee!” To the “State Hymn” (despite its drinking song history) and replaced it with “Utah, This is the Place” because the new song is more fun to sing. It’s apparently not fun enough to exist on iTunes, so I have no idea which would make for a better rumble strip ditty. “Utah, We Love Thee!” Will have to do. Let’s get our local cultural ministry on the job and see what we can do.
So cue up those truck tires, clean the grit out of the rumble strips, and let’s hear if for “Utah We Love Thee.” All together now:
Land of the mountains high, Utah, we love thee!
Land of the sunny sky Utah, we love thee!
Far in the glorious west, Throned on the mountain’s crest,
In robes of statehood dressed, Utah, we love thee.
Columbia’s newest star, Utah, we love thee!
Thy luster shines afar, Utah we love, thee!
Bright in our banner’s blue, Amongst her sisters true,
She proudly comes to view, Utah, we love thee!
Land of the pioneers, Utah, we love thee!
Grow with the coming years, Utah, we love thee!
With wealth and peace in store, To fame and glory soar,
God-guarded evermore, Utah, we love thee!
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
The ivory-billed woodpecker is long gone, an iconic creature driven to extinction because of indifference.