Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cleveland: Angry residents fight highway noise wall

Here’s the coverage from WKYC of the ODOT debacle on I-71.

CLEVELAND- Interstate 71 between Fulton and West 25th Street is on Ohio's top 25 list of noisy stretches of highways.

But the Department of Transportation's wish to put in noise walls is sparking a very noisy debate.

The Brooklyn Centre neighborhood that surrounds the highway is battling to keep its identity and avoid being confused with Old Brooklyn.

"We are the gateway to the city of Cleveland. (Those walls) look like a welcome to East Berlin, " neighborhood activist Tim Ferris said.

ODOT wants to put in faux brick concrete walls already installed further south on the highway.

"We're not a typical suburb. We don't want a typical suburban noise wall," said Councilman Brian Cummings.

Trees abutting the access roads were cut down this week sparking more outrage.

Opponents say ODOT needs to have some green-friendly alternatives for noise abatement.

They are proposing a vegetation noise wall concept being used in Europe and Canada.  It's about a dollar-cheaper per square foot than concrete. But ODOT's concerned about possible maintenance costs.

ODOT says it will study green alternatives for the future. But it wants to act fast to build walls to make sure more than $2 million of Federal money is not lost.

"What they are proposing is something that has not been tested or proven in Ohio," said ODOT spokeswoman Jocelynn Clemings.

"I'd like to get a say. I'm a taxpayer. It's going to make us more forgotten than we are now," said resident Laura McShane.

Some residents who live close to the highway want the walls.

Awilda Soto's backyard is a showplace of statues and landscaping. She's lived next to the highway for 25 years.

"I like it because we're not going to have as much wind or noise and will have privacy.  I wish it here tomorrow," she said.

This situation is the latest of many where residents or businesses feel ODOT is pushing its own agenda without regard for their concerns.

ODOT rejected proposals to put a bike line on the Innerbelt Bridge.

Midtown businesses are upset ODOT plans to eliminate Innerbelt interchanges they regard as essential routes for their customers.

A task force recently recommended ODOT update its transportation planning process to allow more consideration of human, economic and environmental impacts of what it builds.

Cleveland: Angry residents fight highway noise wall