LETTER: I-95 Renovation Plan Needs to Hear Us Out on Noise Levels

Submitted by Brian O’Connor, Byram

Dear neighbors,

When my wife and I moved to Byram in 2017, we were thrilled by the prospect of living so close to the New Lebanon School. Knowing that our future son would go to school up the street from home was a major reason we chose our home. We’d left New York City for a host of reasons—traffic and noise pollution being two major concerns.

As the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans a major facelift for our town’s I-95 corridor, we have an unrivaled opportunity to make our town healthier, happier, and more valuable. Plus, we’ll make it less noisy in the process.

Noise pollution is more than a nuisance—it has major developmental, physical, and mental health consequences for all of us. This includes the youngest members of our community; some of whom go to school every day with the sound of down-shifting tractor trailers, squealing tires, and honking horns from I-95 mere yards away from their school.

Noise annoys, certainly, but it does much more than that—it can also make our lives miserable and harm our childrens’ development. A New Yorker article said recent research on noise pollution can cause various problems for people who live, work, or go to school in noisy environments. This includes “heart disease, high blood pressure, low birth weight, and all the physical, cognitive, and emotional issues that arise from being too distracted to focus on complex tasks and from never getting enough sleep.”

Children suffer far worse. New York City’s P.S. 98, an elementary school in northern Manhattan, sits alongside an elevated subway line. Researchers demonstrated a clear link between student aptitude and their proximity to the rumbling, screeching train line next door. Students’ test scores were lower than peers in other nearby schools that did not have the same proximity to the train line. Once school administrators installed soundproofing, scores increased. These findings could also extend to the students at New Lebanon, who also experience noise-related interruptions of their own.

This comparison isn’t an exaggeration, and I should know. I spent ten years living in The Bronx right next to major noise pollution sources: the elevated subway train blaring down Broadway, and the constant noise of the Major Deegan Expressway only across the street from my apartment. I also lived along Fulton Street in Brooklyn—a major artery through the northern end of the borough. Neighborhoods along the I-95 corridor sound no quieter than either of these two urban areas.

The CTDOT may not believe that Byram qualifies for a noise pollution assessment, let alone any meaningful consideration for the amount of noise we live with. Although I am far from an expert or engineer, I’ve heard enough to know when noise is louder than it ought to be. I may not have the 1 Train running down my street, but I certainly hear plenty of the same blaring horns and 18-wheelers in Greenwich as I did in Kingsbridge.

Greenwich is drawing in young families making a getaway from the city. This is good for all of us in terms of property value and fresh faces around town. If we can’t take the roar out of I-95 when we have an unparalleled chance to do so, we’re missing out on an opportunity to improve the value of our lives, our childrens’ lives, and our homes.

This federally funded construction provides us with perhaps our only opportunity to speak up.

The question is if we will be loud enough for Hartford to hear us over the noise.