It’s about to get just a little quieter for residents near the 210 Freeway, thanks to an infusion of state funds.
After years of discussion and planning, La Cañada Flintridge finally will get freeway sound walls.
With $10.7 million of Measure R transportation funds coming to the city from Sacramento, the City Council voted Monday to put those funds toward the first phase of a long-awaited plan to shield residents from traffic noise.
The first $4.588 million will be issued immediately. The money will be used to install the first two of the sound walls that eventually will line the entire run of the 210 through the city. The remaining $6.112 million of Measure R funds will not be dispensed until 2020. The first section of sound walls will run along the freeway at the city’s eastern edge from the Berkshire Place on-ramp/Foothill Boulevard off-ramp to the Georgian Road/Hampton Road on-ramp.
Mayor David Spence said that after more than a decade of discussing sound walls, the city decided to start the project now, rather than wait for the total funds to be available.
“It’s been in the works for quite a few years and we haven’t really had enough money to make a substantial change or difference,” he said. “The plan is to do improvements in sections where we could get the most efficient use of the funds that are available.”
Spence said that rather than try and design an overly ambitious project that would sit dormant for lack of funding, the city had decided to move now so that at least some residents would see the benefits.
“We’re not going to spend a whole lot of money on design on the whole project when we don’t have money do the whole project,” he said. “We’re going to take it in pieces and try to get the most that we can out of the money that we have available.”
This is the necessary approach, said City Engineer Ying Kwan, because the total project carries a hefty price tag.
“We’re doing two walls out of the total, and … to complete all the sound walls on the freeway that runs through La Cañada Flintridge, it would take $31 million,” he said.
Kwan said that the design alone of the new walls would run about $600,000, and that their construction would take several million dollars.
But that price tag buys a hefty reduction in traffic noise, said Kwan.
“The MTA has requirements. You have to reduce the decibel by a certain rating, by 30 decibels, and if it doesn’t meet that, it doesn’t qualify as a sound wall,” he said.
The walls will most directly impact those homes that are adjacent to the freeway, Kwan said, although the next row of houses away from the freeway also will hear a reduction in traffic noise.
Not everyone is convinced the project is worth the cost. Former City Council member Jerry Martin lives near the proposed walls, south of Berkshire Avenue, but said he didn’t think they would fix the problem.
“The sound will simply be reflected off the freeways and go to another location. It will not correct the problem; it will just rearrange it,” he said.
Martin said he was concerned that the city would be spending millions of dollars on a project that would benefit only between 200 to 300 homes, and that it wasn’t a rational idea.
“I think the sound walls have taken on a life of their own,” he said. “I do think the people who favor the sound walls are doing from an emotional perspective, rather than from a scientific perspective.”