Culver City : Freeway Walls Ruled Out

Culver City homeowners who live on or near McDonald Street near the San Diego Freeway are not eligible for noise containment walls under state Department of Transportation regulations, Caltrans officials told the residents and members of the City Council this week.

William Minter, Caltrans sound-wall project engineer for Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties, said that the state must consider three factors when deciding where to place sound walls along freeways:

First, the community alongside the freeway must predate the building of the freeway. Second, there must be a possibility of significantly reducing the noise level in an area where outside noise levels of 67 decibels or higher are recorded. Third, the cost of the noise reduction measures must not exceed $30,000 per home.

Minter and his supervisor, Oscar Villacorte, acknowledged that the McDonald Street homes met the first criterion. But Minter said that only two homes in the area had noise levels higher than 67 decibels recorded and said the cost of trying to abate the noise at those homes would be from $50,000 to $60,000 per house.

Minter added that sound walls would have only a minimal effect on the general noise level in the neighborhood, because the major cause of the noise problem was the reflection of sound from underneath the freeway by the concrete bottom in Ballona Creek.

Homeowner George Robertie said he found it difficult to believe that Caltrans was unable to effectively reduce the noise level around McDonald Street.

"Has the department tried baffles, or padding to take care of acoustic phenomena as in Ballona Creek?" he asked. "Have you explored other alternatives? This is not such a unique situation; it's been done around airports."

Residents said they have other problem with the freeway.

"It's not just the noise, it's the fumes and the dust," said Arnold Krupnick, who has sued Caltrans three times since construction began on the San Diego Freeway. "How would you like to replace your drapes every two years, plus your carpets? I breathe this stuff."

"We can't build a sound wall to get rid of dust and fumes," Minter replied. "That's for noise only, and we have to abide by the regulations, even if it leads us into unpopular situations sometimes."

At Councilman James Boulgarides' request, the council voted to formally ask Caltrans to review the matter and possibly take new sound measurements.

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