River Hills sees issues with I-43 project

Published on: 7/22/2013

River Hills — Village Board members cited noise pollution as a top concern surrounding the Interstate 43 reconstruction project.

The Village Board heard an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation July 17 about the reconstruction of a 14-mile stretch of I-43 from Silver Spring in Glendale to Highway 60 in Grafton. The project is in the planning stages, with construction tentatively slated for 2020.

As planning progresses, with a third public information meeting in August, DOT presented noise and stormwater studies to the River Hills Village Board. Though the DOT continues to narrow down the design options, the noise study did not come up with a cost-effective reason to put a sound barrier along the portion of the interstate that runs through River Hills, much to the dismay of the board.

'You have the most expensive real estate in the state in this square mileage area and it's getting killed by highway noise,' Village Board Member Michael White said.

Noise study does not warrant barrier

DOT Noise and Quality Engineer Jay Waldschmidt said they have studied all possible noise barriers along that section of highway. Taking into consideration what the Federal Highway Administration allows for noise ranges, they looked at ways to create the lowest reduction — including using the most expensive barriers — and the results did not warrant one.

'We could not come up with a cost-effective reason to put a barrier in River Hills,' he said.

The Federal Highway Administration traffic noise model concluded that noise increasing along the interstate will be minimal. The project is meant to deal with current congestion on the interstate; the number of cars, and subsequently the amount of noise, won't increase because of it.

'One thing to remember is if we have a four-lane freeway and we add a third lane and now we have six lanes, we have not doubled the traffic,' said John Jaeckal, environmental quality engineer from HNTB Companies.

Possibility of berms

White said the current noise conditions are hindering the sale of the homes along the interstate and some sort of noise barrier should be implemented as part of the project. If a noise barrier would not be effective, board members asked the DOT to look into adding dirt berms by those River Hills residences to block some of the noise, saying it would be less expensive to keep dug-up dirt from the project on-site.

Project Manager Steve Hoff said that would be up to the individual property owners to decide if they would want a berm in front of their house or not. He said the DOT can mandate where the dirt goes in contract documents for the project; however, at this point no promises can be made in terms of noise abatement.

Hoff said the DOT is beginning conceptual environmental impact statements and it could be four years before any hard decisions are made.

No changes for stormwater runoff

The DOT also presented findings of a stormwater study that looked at quality and quantity of stormwater resulting from the interstate reconstruction. Because of the additional lanes, there will be additional stormwater runoff.

Despite the additional runoff, Hoff said there should not be any changes to the drainage pattern, nor will there be a net increase of stormwater going through the current watershed. This is because the addition runoff will be handled in the confines of the freeway.