officials seek natural sound barrier, not wall
By Jeff Gallatin
Published Sept. 7, 2005
Thomas O'Grady wants to take a natural approach to sound barriers
on the $14.2 million Crocker Stearns road project instead of a concrete
O'Grady would like Cuyahoga County officials to consider building
an earth mound as a sound barrier instead of the 13-foot concrete
noise barrier walls planned for the project in North Olmsted. Currently,
county officials plan for the noise barrier walls to start north
of Lorain Road, extend 1,660 feet along the west side and 3,523
feet on the east side of the Crocker-Stearns area. The walls would
be about two feet from the sidewalk.
"I don't think tall concrete barriers are what we want people to
see while driving through North Olmsted on a major transportation
artery like Crocker-Stearns will be," O'Grady said. "They're oppressive
and don't give a good feeling about the city. I'd like to see if
the county will consider putting up natural barriers like mounds
with trees and other more natural means of blocking sounds. Ultimately,
it will be up to the residents to let us know what they want."
At a council streets and transportation committee meeting Aug. 30,
council heard a presentation from county engineering office officials
about the Crocker Stearns project. George Nashar, chairman of the
committee, and several other council members expressed concern about
the walls in the current plan. In addition, about 30 citizens attended
the meeting to hear about the project. Although Nashar said they
could not speak or ask questions at the August meeting, he emphasized
that there would be a public meeting Sept. 26 where citizens can
ask all the questions they want.
said O'Grady's idea has merit.
"It's certainly worth exploring," Nashar said. "If the residents
think it's a viable option, I'd like to look at it."
Nashar said he will check with Planning Director Kim Wenger to see
if it's financially feasible, noting that county officials at the
Aug. 30 meeting said it's very difficult to make financial and planning
changes late in a project like this.
Jamal Husani, the chief transportation and traffic engineer for
the county, said any financial changes would have to be born by
North Olmsted since the federal government has committed a large
amount of money to the project and it doesn't like to make changes
when a plan has been made.
He also said the right of ways have been acquired and that the county
would not go back and spend additional funds to acquire more property
for any changes in the project.
O'Grady said he hopes the financial factors will actually work in
favor of building a mound sound barrier.
"One would think that mounds of dirt and adding trees and other
natural sound barriers would actually be less expensive than a tall
concrete barrier," O'Grady said. "We can certainly explore it."
Wenger said she is open to different ideas, but added that the decision
on changes does not rest with her.
"Those barriers are not the most aesthetically pleasing site, and
you certainly would like to have something set up which would project
something more pleasing or inviting to have people see as something
representing your city," Wenger said. "A natural mound barrier or
fencing with other means of deadening the traffic sound would seem
more in line with what people seem to be saying.
"But it will be up to the county, and it appears that it would take
a tremendous amount of support from the city and residents for a
change to get one at this time. They have already made plans and
other preparations for the right of ways and other work and it's
not easy to get a change when that kind of work has already been
Michael Gareau Jr., chairman of council's zoning committee, also
said the natural barrier has potential.
"It sounds good because when you look at the kind of concrete barriers
they're talking about, you don't see them in place around other
cities," Gareau said. "You see them by highways and other areas
not so close to residences and homes. If it's something the people
indicate they have an interest in, I'd explore it."
Paul Miller, chairman of council's safety committee, said he also
has concerns about the concrete walls.
"They seem awfully close to the sidewalks," Miller said. "They're
only a couple of feet away. What happens if a kid loses his balance
on a bike and runs into the wall? You also have the graffiti factor.
I really don't want to see a lot of graffiti up on walls as people
drive through our city."
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough, whose city has mounds with trees and
a light covering on it as sound barriers, advocated using the natural
method, saying they've been effective for his administration and
residents like them.
"They look much better and they're easy to set up," Clough said.
"You're going to have a tremendous amount of dirt being dug up when
the road work starts. Just use the dirt from the road work and then
plant trees and other natural barriers on it. We've also found it
to be effective when we put a light covering on it in some cases,