A group of Troy residents are petitioning for a sound study to be done on their side of Interstate 75 in the wake of roadwork that they say has caused loud traffic noise around their homes.

A group of Troy residents are petitioning for a sound study to be done on their side of Interstate 75 in the wake of roadwork that they say has caused loud traffic noise around their homes.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Sound study approved for residents near I-75

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published January 11, 2022

 A sound barrier was constructed on the south side of I-75, and residents from the north side say one should also have been built on their side. They say the south wall is causing traffic noise to bounce back toward them.

A sound barrier was constructed on the south side of I-75, and residents from the north side say one should also have been built on their side. They say the south wall is causing traffic noise to bounce back toward them.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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TROY — A group of Troy residents who live in the area of Square Lake and Crooks roads have successfully pushed for money to be set aside for a sound study on traffic noise resulting from recent work on a nearby stretch of Interstate 75.

The work is part of a multiyear project that is repairing portions of the expressway section by section. The portion near Square Lake and Crooks was completed last year, and residents say it is causing unacceptable noise in their neighborhood.

“The group formed in August, and they went to City Council saying that this wasn’t acceptable,” said Gail Morrell, one of the petition leaders. “The (Troy) City Council listened to them but didn’t really respond terribly favorably. They picked up momentum after that by contacting state representatives. The reps got $300,000 to do another sound study this year. It’s a federal road, so that might take years. (The Michigan Department of Transportation) is claiming that they had meetings ahead of time and asked where we were at their preliminary meeting. The meeting was in Madison Heights, and it was years ago, since the renovation has been going on for five or six years.”

Morrell and her fellow petitioners said that not only is the noise a nuisance on the north side of the expressway, but that a sound way built to protect those living on the south side from such noise is actually increasing noise to the north by causing the noise to bounce back toward them.

“I-75 is pretty close to Square Lake Road in this space, and homes are right there along that space,” said Morrell. “MDOT says there is an equation that there has to be so many homes per so many feet to require a sound barrier. We were two homes short to require something. There is a sound barrier along the south side of I-75, but those people are saying that it isn’t high enough, and we think the sound is bouncing off that wall back toward us, increasing the sound even more.”

Morrell said that the noise is not only affecting quality of life in the area, but it also has had a negative effect on home prices.

“There has been no word about when this future sound study will be done. The $300,000 was put into the 2022 budget,” Morrell said. “It is impacting sales of houses. … It is impossible to use our decks, patios, backyards, or even take a walk in the neighborhood. We can’t sleep at night in our own homes. … Several people have put their house up for sale there. I have lived in the area for 34 years, and the sound is not even comparable to what it used to be.”

Drew Buckner, a transportation service manager with MDOT, said that his department has been making an effort to connect with residents throughout the course of the I-75 work at all points during the multistage project.

“Many studies were done during the project development process. I don’t think any particular sides were favored. Everything was done in proper order,” he said. “We spoke to them in the fall of 2020 and in early 2021. There was a meeting with state Rep. (Padma) Kuppa, and we have responded to letters and emails, so we are definitely making an effort to communicate with the public.”

He said that a sound study for the affected area will be coming in 2022, but dates have not been set yet.

“We don’t have any dates for when a sound study could be done,” said Buckner. “The state representative and state senator were successful in appropriating the $300,000 for a sound study, but we don’t know when it might take place or who would be hired to do the study. I can say that it will be a collaborative process with MDOT, the local leaders and residents.”

While money for the sound study has been appropriated, funding for a solution to the noise would have to come from the federal government, since I-75 is a federal highway.

“Money has only been appropriated for a study,” Buckner said. “Since we do not have a state-funded noise wall program, any noise walls we build are done according to federal standards. If a study found walls were warranted, it would be up to the state Legislature to determine funding for them. Because the project has been completed in that area, there is no funding left on this project, so additional funding for this proposed sound wall would have to be found at the state level.”

Ethan Baker, the mayor of Troy, said that action is being taken to put this sound study and any subsequent work in place. He added that such work can be slow, and it can often appear to the residents of the affected areas that nothing is being done.

“The Square Lake area residents began circulating a petition, and everyone in that area knows it’s a problem, but a lot of people don’t understand why no one is doing anything about it,” he said. “A year ago, the city of Troy issued a proclamation to send this petition to government officials. It’s just a slow process, so I think a lot of people feel like it is being ignored. I think MDOT knows how important an issue this is now.”

Not helping this issue was that some neighborhoods were heard by MDOT early on in the I-75 process, which made those who received little or no response when they voiced their concerns later on in the process, such as those near Square Lake Road, feel ignored.

“As soon as the trees went down and the modernization process began, it got louder,” said Baker. “We heard from residents, and MDOT was moving so fast, they held some early meetings and successfully added a sound wall in a few spots. Then some other groups said it was louder in their area too, and they didn’t really get a response from MDOT. It got muddied up in bureaucratic muck. People wanted the Troy City Council to do something, but we don’t have any control over that project or that land. We can’t really demand anything from MDOT, either.” He said he has spent hours on the phone talking about the issue from the federal perspective.

Baker added that he hopes some good will come out of this situation by showing people that there are flaws in the process of this sort of highway work.

“I don’t think you should ever build a sound wall on only one side of a freeway while there are also residential neighborhoods on the other side,” he said. “I feel like future regulations should be put in place taking that into account. Hopefully, that could be something good that comes out of all of this.”

Morrell said that it is an issue that has had a negative impact on her entire neighborhood and that she is confident the sound study will show that action needs to be taken.

“Part of it is that we didn’t notice at first because traffic volumes were less because of COVID. Now that people are back to work, people are noticing,” she explained. “Fourteen of us went canvassing if people were experiencing the noise, and a lot of people were like, ‘Yes! Where have you been?’ We have no money. This is all of us volunteering to try and make things better. One gentleman in our group used to work for the automotive industry, and he has been doing his own sound study, and he says the sound is exceeding federal guidelines.”

Morrell added that if anyone in the area wishes to get involved with the petition, they can contact her at lawhitty@aol.com.

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