DOT plans new vote on I-277 noise walls

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comNovember 14, 2013 

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans a second round of voting for some residents who live along Interstate 277 to ask if they want noise walls along the Brookshire Freeway.

A $550 million widening of Interstate 77 would include a new flyover from a planned toll lane to the Brookshire Freeway north of uptown. As part of the project, the state will install noise barriers along the highway to shield nearby residents from the roar of tens of thousands of cars and trucks.

Usually noise walls are desired, and some residents have been frustrated when the state hasn’t been required to build them.

But in this case, the Charlotte City Council worries that proposed barriers would be ugly and block views of the uptown skyline. Council members on Monday directed Mayor Patsy Kinsey to send a letter to DOT and Gov. Pat McCrory asking them to reconsider the walls.

DOT plans to install walls north of the I-77/I-85 interchange are uncontroversial.

Some council members are concerned about the impact of the walls south of that interchange along I-77. They are concerned new walls will eclipse an existing decorative brick wall.

Republican council member Andy Dulin said during Monday’s council meeting that the two walls would create a “no-man’s land” that could be dangerous for children and wildlife.

But Louis Mitchell, a division engineer with the N.C. DOT, said residents along that stretch of the interstate have voted for the barriers. Some of the neighborhoods include Oaklawn Park, Lincoln Heights and Genesis Park.

“They do want the noise wall,” Mitchell said. They understand the complication we have with dual walls.”

DOT already had a round of voting for the more controversial walls on I-277 flanking Fourth Ward, where Church Street intersects the highway.

But the state will redo the voting because the height of the proposed I-277 noise wall has changed. Mitchell said because the walls would be built on bridges, they have to be shorter to withstand high winds.

“We had to scale back the dimensions of the walls,” Mitchell said.

He said ballots will be sent out to residents who live adjacent to I-277 in early December. They are due to the N.C. DOT in early January.

Council member David Howard warned residents that if they are against the walls, they must vote. A ballot that isn’t returned to DOT is considered a yes vote, he said.

DOT plans to select a contractor for the project in the first half of 2014.

The project will convert the I-77 carpool lane into a so-called HOT Lane, which allow motorists to pay a toll to use one lane of traffic. In exchange for the toll, the driver would be guaranteed a minimum speed. The price of the toll would vary depending on the level of congestion.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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