This piece originally appeared on the New Haven Independent.
Sara Jamison is hoping for more peaceful days and nights with her 1-year-old son now that the state of Connecticut has found a way to answer neighbors’ pleas to block noise and pollution from a highway in her New Haven neighborhood.
Jamison (pictured with Eliot Soto) lives on Lyon Street, in a section of Wooster Square that was split by Interstate 91. Neighbors there have been complaining for years about the sound of traffic, especially the roar of down-shifting trucks at 4:30 every morning.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) said Thursday that after years of lobbying from Alderman Mike Smart and State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, it will find a way to create a sound barrier separating Lyon and William streets from the highway.
“We are committed to doing this,” said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick Thursday.
He said the state has asked a contractor for a quote on the project. The project’s timetable will depend on whether that price is “favorable.”
The project had sat on the state’s list for the Statewide Retrofit Noise Barrier Program. The state hadn’t funded that program in 20 years. So it wasn’t going anywhere.
Nursick said Thursday the state has come up with a new plan to get the federal government to finance the project.
The feds don’t usually pay for sound barriers unless there’s an increase in capacity on a nearby road, Nursick said. The DOT has had some luck lately getting federal money for sound barriers as part of the massive, $350 million redo of the interchange between Interstates 91 and 95 and Route 34. The federal government is paying 87 percent of that project, the state the rest.
That’s how the new sound barriers rose near Howard Avenue over I-95, Nursick said.
So the state decided to propose that Lyon Street’s sound barrier be added to the $350 million interchange project, which accompanies the redo of the Q Bridge. The tactic worked—the federal government gave an “initial nod” the idea, Nursick said.
He said the plan—and the timetable—depend on the cost.
The state has asked O&G Industries of Torrington, Conn., the contractor at work on the interchange project, to come up with a price for building the sound barrier as a change order to its current contract. Since the contractor is already out there doing work, the state could save money through this method, Nursick said.
If the price is favorable, the DOT hopes to weave in the sound barrier “sooner than later” as part of the existing work, which is set to be completed before November 2016.
If the price isn’t favorable, Nursick said, “there’s a good potential that we would go out to bid on a stand-alone project” to build the sound barrier.
The barrier would stretch 800 feet from an existing barrier near Grand Avenue on the southbound side of I-91, past Lyon and William streets, along the Trumbull Street on-ramp until the train tracks, he said.
Nursick called the new plan an “out-of-the-box” solution.
“We’ve known there’s been a request for and a need for sound barriers in that area,” he said, but finding money has been difficult.
Alderman Smart, who lives right next to the highway on Lyon, said he got word Thursday of the state’s new commitment.
“It’s great news that residents will finally have some peace and protection from the noise and pollution from the highway that they’ve suffered for decades,” Smart said.
Sen. Looney was a major “driving force” behind weaving the sound barrier into the existing highway work, Nursick said.