Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

HJR 551: Joint Subcommittee to Study Highway Noise Abatement

August 17, 2006

The joint subcommittee created by the General Assembly in 2005 to find ways to utilize more noise abatement in Virginia at a lower cost to taxpayers met in Newport News. Guest speakers from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and several Virginia localities were invited to give presentations at the meeting. An article relevant to the study, "Shaping Noise Wall Design," which appeared in the July-August 2006 issue of Government Engineering was distributed to the members.


Amy Costello, Manager
Air, Noise, and Energy Section of the Virginia Department of Transportation

Delaware noise policy

Ms. Costello briefed the members regarding Delaware's noise policy, which has been in place since October 4, 2005. The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) conducts noise studies when the necessary funding is provided by the local community or the state legislature. Ms. Costello pointed out that Delaware local governments may overlook a developer's failure to provide DelDOT with adequate noise abatement information. Delaware noise policy calls for:

• Developers to be responsible for limiting noise.
• Analysis of noise impact for subdivisions planned along highways based on future traffic forecasts. • Noise abatement to be constructed concur-rently with the addition of subdivision streets.
• Barriers for noise abatement to be built and maintained according to DelDOT standards.

VDOT's New Products Committee

Ms. Costello stated that the committee to evaluate new noise abatement products is chaired by a member of VDOT's Materials Division and includes members of other VDOT Divisions. New products undergo a 6-step process:

• Product value screening.
• Preliminary examination for feasibility.
• Detailed product evaluation.
• Written product specifications.
• Assembly and dissemination of product information.
• Product performance evaluation.

All noise abatement construction must meet minimum safety standards and if the structure fails, the project engineer is held accountable. VDOT specifications are based on federal specifications, allowing limited flexibility, which means cost savings cannot result from lowering standards.

Ohio's noise alternatives study

Ms. Costello provided information on Ohio's study of alternative soundproofing methods, which concluded that a wide range of alternatives are available, but some clearly do not satisfy feasibility require-ments. Alternative methods that include land-use planning and traditional noise barriers were considered more useful.

John B. Kaoudis - Senior Engineer
Department of Engineering of the City of Newport News

Mr. Kaoudis explained that Newport News adopted a noise abatement policy in 1989 that met VDOT requirements, resulting in a 50/50 cost sharing with VDOT of costs associated with noise abatement on nonfederal aid projects. So far, two noise walls have been constructed and a third project is under consideration. Newport News works with developers to avoid noise impacts as much as possible. Mr. Kaoudis stated that city policy emphasizes the need for noise abatement not the need for noise wall construction. He noted that the cost of noise abatement is effected by:

• Concrete and steel prices.
• Right-of-way acquisition costs and increased land value.
• Building design and choice of construction materials.

Richard Hartman - City Engineer
City of Portsmouth

Mr. Hartman discussed the City of Ports-mouth's new private cargo terminal, owned and operated by APM Terminals Virginia, Inc., which will begin operation in 2007. VDOT created a new highway interchange that will provide direct access to the cargo terminal, which will open later this year. VDOT does not call for the construction of noise walls on this project, because it is classified as a nonfed-eral aid highway. When the cargo terminal begins operation it will add approximately 3,000 trucks a day to local highways and possibly 4,500 trucks a day in ten years. Highway ramps for the new interchange are situated 130 feet from houses in the adjoining neighborhood and truck traffic will utilize the new interchange instead of neighborhood streets. Mr. Hartman stated that there may be a need for noise abatement, but no noise walls are planned for this time. Because the inter-change is a design-build project, no federal funding or other source of funding is available.

Brad H. Johnson - Transportation Planning Manager
Prince William County

Mr. Johnson explained that Prince William County did not have a highway noise policy prior to 2000. Since adopting a policy, no highway projects have qualified for a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement like projects in Newport News. Prince William's policy only covers large residential developments and does not apply to noise impact on local streets. If large develop-ments have noise impact, the developer is required to include noise abatement in the development plan. Citizens are often frustrated regarding the requirements for noise abatement construction because:

• VDOT's policy states that federal aid highway construction must include noise walls and nonfederal aid does not.
• Homeowners' associations are divided in that some desire noise wall construction and others deem it unsightly.

John R. Bell - Senior Planner
Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning

Fairfax County does not have a highway noise abatement policy or any provisions in the county code pertaining to noise abatement. The county relies somewhat on VDOT noise abatement policy and federal guidelines. For projects with highway noise concerns, Fairfax County depends on building permit requirements and direct negotiations with individual developers, utilizing its authority to control zoning and its ability to grant special exceptions to resolve issues. Next Meeting The joint subcommittee will meet again in September 2006 to determine its findings and recommendations for presentation to the 2007 Session of the General Assembly.

The Hon. Jeffrey M. Frederick

For information, contact:
Alan Wambold and Stephanie Bishop, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

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