Residents near I-75 cry foul over scrapped sound wall

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 14, 2019

 Trees in the state right of way along Lange and Darter drives were cut down last week as part of I-75 work.

Trees in the state right of way along Lange and Darter drives were cut down last week as part of I-75 work.

Photo by Terry Oparka

 The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to ask for feedback from residents about landscaping in the state right of way adjacent to Lange and Carter drives as a measure to mitigate sound from I-75.

The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to ask for feedback from residents about landscaping in the state right of way adjacent to Lange and Carter drives as a measure to mitigate sound from I-75.

Photo by Terry Oparka

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TROY — Older homes line Lange and Carter drives, just north of Wattles Road, east of Livernois Road.

Interstate 75 runs alongside.

In 2015, residents in that neighborhood said they learned, through emails from the Michigan Department of Transportation, that as part of the I-75 modernization project, they would be getting a noise abatement wall.

Flash forward to 2019 and MDOT officials have accelerated the I-75 modernization project, which is over 80% federally funded. Residents learned that there will be no sound wall on their side of I-75 because the noise has gotten louder.

However, a wall will be constructed on the other side, along southbound I-75, near an apartment building, which residents on the northbound side fear will push even more noise their way.

Last week, as part of the construction work, several mature trees in the state right of way, which residents say had buffered some of the noise, were cut down.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Rob Morosi, spokesman for MDOT.

He verified what residents told C & G Newspapers.

He explained that initially, in 2015, MDOT had issued a statement of likelihood that a sound wall would be part of the final design for the project. Morosi said that when the project was accelerated, per federal guidelines, they were required to go back and do an analysis.

“The traffic volume and noise level increased,” Morosi said. “The Carter-Lange sub no longer met cost reasonableness criteria.”

He said the federal formula is based on benefit per resident and cannot exceed $45,942 per benefiting resident. With the increased sound, the cost of a wall increased and worked out to be $70,000 per benefiting resident.

Morosi said the project must follow federal guidelines to receive funding.

“In 2015, the smaller sound wall did not exceed federal standards,” he said. “This is an incredibly unfortunate circumstance.”

Morosi said the apartment complex on the other side of the freeway is not viewed by federal officials as a single residence.

“Each apartment is considered a residence,” he said, explaining why the formula worked out for the sound wall on the southbound lanes of I-75.

Morosi said the trees were removed from the state right of way to ensure proper drainage to the ditch along the freeway, which is at the same level as the homes.

“We had to do it for drainage of the water efficiently so we don’t flood neighborhoods or the freeway. We have offered the community the chance to help us devise a landscape plan on the right of way to mitigate the noise. We acknowledge it will not be the barrier that mature trees were.

“We have to abide by federal guidelines to leverage funding,” Morosi said.

Currently, both directions of I-75 traffic, separated by a temporary concrete barrier, are maintained on the southbound side of the freeway. This will allow for the northbound lanes and bridges to be reconstructed this year. This configuration is expected to remain in place until late November.

When completed, the $224 million project, the second phase of the I-75 modernization project, will reconstruct 8 miles of pavement and 18 structures, upgrade drainage, and improve aesthetics. It will feature federally approved noise walls and a high-occupancy vehicle lane between Coolidge Highway and 13 Mile Road.

This stretch of highway carries over 174,000 cars per day.

“All the neighbors are worried the noise is affecting property values,” said 31-year resident Bob Kush. “Ten years ago, we couldn’t hear the traffic inside the house.”

He said he believes the higher traffic volumes, increased speed limit and updates to the pavement have increased the noise, which he said is worse from October to March, when the trees are bare of leaves.

“It’s very frustrating,” Lange Drive resident Natalie Rollinger told C & G Newspapers May 9. “In the last two days, they cut down all the trees,” she said.

Rollinger said that she and her neighbors plan to “drive it to the state level” and ask lawmakers to push for the sound wall.

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