Macon’s transportation planning organization is asking the state to study whether more of the city should have noise barriers. The policy committee of the Macon Area Transportation Study voted Wednesday to request a study along Interstate 75 and Interstate 16 to protect residents’ health and safety. The group is also asking the state for information on how to make the barriers look better.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert was the only person to vote against the initiative.
“We already know the answer to that,” Reichert said. “We need to try to find the money” to build the barriers.
Speakers Wednesday said the sound barriers are ugly but effective. Peg Jones, a North Pine Knoll Drive resident, said her walls began to crack after trees along an Interstate 75 widening project were removed.
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“I can sleep on the second floor of my home and open the windows, and it sounded like Niagara Falls, just roaring,” she said. After brown sound barriers were installed, it became less noisy than before the trees were cut down. She hopes new trees or other aesthetic upgrades can be installed.
“We can redo it and make it as attractive as it was,” she said.
It’s not clear whether any funding will be available, as Reichert had suggested. An e-mail from a state administrator provided to Macon Area Transportation Study board members said there is no federal funding for standalone noise walls, which would have to be built with future widening projects.
Michael Ryan, a member of the organization’s citizens advisory committee, said officials had previously sought Congressional earmarks for the money because federal highways created the noise.
“The federal government has created a nuisance for this community, and they’re responsible for correcting the nuisance for this community,” said Ryan, who lives close to Interstate 75.
Ryan said he’d used a sound meter to discover that the noise inside one person’s bedroom near a highway was 62 decibels.
That’s 10 decibels, or 10 times louder, than the 52 decibels allowed under federal law.
Jaime Webb, a real estate agent and former chairman of the citizens advisory committee, said the impact of noise and pollution is incalculable.
“We don’t want brown, ugly sound barriers that look like they belong in a desert,” Webb told policy committee members. “It’s up to this committee to stop it.”
The policy committee also agreed to ask the state to expedite a long-proposed meeting on sound barrier information.
Separately, Reichert and Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said they would represent Macon Area Transportation Study in an effort to see whether Warner Robins Area Transportation Study was interested in merging.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.