State legislators propose measure to create fund for highway sound barriers

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By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published January 18, 2024 Acoustic Metal Barrier

State legislators propose measure to create fund for highway sound barriers

Drivers travel past sound walls on I-75 in Troy.

File photo by Patricia O'Blenes

TROY — On Jan. 10, Michigan state Reps. Tom Kuhn and Sharon MacDonell introduced a plan to establish a fund for sound barrier construction along state highways on which excessive highway noise has become an issue. 

The plan of Kuhn, R-Troy, and MacDonell, D-Troy, would create a noise barrier fund in the state treasury to offer grants or loans to local authorities for noise barrier construction. Applicants seeking funding would undergo a review process where proposed projects would be scored based on criteria including project cost, residents affected and existing noise at the site. The legislation mirrors a similar plan introduced last fall by state Sen. Michael Webber, R-Rochester Hills.

“Noise pollution is growing right alongside the size of our interstates,” Kuhn said in a press release. “Our common-sense plan creates a process for local municipalities to seek state funding and secure peace and quiet for people living near busy roadways.” 

The legislators secured $10 million in the state budget to fund two sections of sound barriers in Troy, which many residents had complained was an ongoing problem. The proposed program would create a new fund allowing additional communities to apply for sound barrier funding without having to wait for the next state budget. MacDonell said that other states with similar initiatives have been successful in improving the quality of life by lowering noise levels.

“Rep. Kuhn, Sen. Webber, and myself have heard from a number of people in our community that just couldn’t stand the overpowering noise coming from I-75 in Troy,” MacDonell said in a press release. “Our plan gives communities across Michigan access to sound barriers and much-needed relief from noise pollution.”

"I am proud to work with my House colleagues to jointly introduce this bill in both chambers,” Webber said in a press release. “Advocating for highway noise abatement needs to be a continued priority for our state. … The current process of residents appealing to their state legislator to advocate for sound wall funding within the annual state budget isn’t practical or sustainable — a formal funding model is needed. … It was my understanding from (the Michigan Department of Transportation) that federal dollars are historically used to build sound walls and that this project would not have qualified for federal funding because the original I-75 corridor project was already completed. My bill would fix this situation in the future.”

Webber said the legislation is modeled on a Minnesota law, since that is the only other state with a mechanism set up to fund sound wall construction from the state level and not just from federal dollars. He said his legislation would create a fund within the Department of Treasury to be administered by MDOT in order to support qualifying noise abatement projects where sound walls currently are not located.

Kuhn said that this proposed fund stemmed in part from the efforts of Troy residents to secure a sound wall along I-75 after the road work there resulted in significantly more noise. He added that he hopes this proposed fund will find bipartisan support in Lansing.

“The $10 million allocation was for sound barrier projects specific to I-75 in Troy. Our plan would create a fund in the state treasury for other communities to apply and receive funding for sound barriers,” he said via email. “The bill has been referred to the Committee on Transportation, Mobility, and Infrastructure for further action, which I hope the Democratic majority will take up later this spring.”

Several of the Troy residents who have spent years pushing for more sound walls in Troy said that this legislation is desperately needed in communities like theirs and that the new action is evidence that their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.

“This could help people with similar problems that we had here in Troy,” said Gail Morrell, one of the leaders in the efforts to secure more sound walls in Troy. “We still have some areas that could benefit from additional sound walls in Troy. We are still waiting to see. I think someone has finally realized that this kind of construction is causing people living near the work to suffer. I’m glad our voices were heard and they are taking this a step farther and maybe helping people in the future.”

She hopes that their longtime efforts and the red tape they’ve had to go through will be worth it if it has spurred legislators to take action to prevent other communities from having to experience the same obstacles.

“Fixing these projects that they messed up is so expensive, and they are affecting so many people. You need something like this fund to help,” said Morrell. “It’s a great idea. Hopefully, it looks out for everyone and he is able to get it passed. It took us a couple of years to get to a place where we could get a wall, so it’s great that, if this passes, others won’t have to go through the same long process.”

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State legislators propose measure to create fund for highway sound barriers

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