Riverside Association: When will DOT follow federal and state noise laws?

Open letter to Commissioner Giulietti from the board of the Riverside Association

Dear Commissioner Giulietti:

Residents of Greenwich, especially those who live near I-95, have been pleased to learn that improvements are scheduled for the stretch of the highway that runs through the town. Slated to begin in 2022, the upcoming project (0056-0316) addresses congestion and safety issues on the highway, exit ramps, and the Mianus River bridge.

Residents are less than pleased, however, with the limited focus of the project. For years, Greenwich has seen highway traffic increase to an average of 150,000 vehicles per day. Pleas for the inclusion of noise mitigation, such as sound barriers and ‘quiet’ pavement, have been summarily dismissed. Since the project does not qualify as “Type 1,” asserts Serge Nikulin, Connecticut’s Department of Transportation Project Engineer, a noise analysis is not triggered, “no new noise walls are proposed,” and “Unfortunately, a specific pavement composition to reduce tire noise is not proposed under this project.”

The unified wail of frustration at this response almost exceeded the noise from the highway. Even acknowledging that the guidelines outlined in Title 23 (which governs highway projects of this magnitude) must be followed to ensure compliance and consistency, this decision is short sighted. On a closer read of Title 23, one finds this section of the legislation:§771.133   Compliance with other requirements.(a) The combined final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) / ROD (Record of Decision), final EIS or FONSI (Findings of No Significant Impact) should document compliance with requirements of all applicable environmental laws, executive orders, and other related requirements. 

This portion of the law continues, and requires that, if full compliance is not possible by the time the project is presented, the project must nonetheless reflect consultation with the appropriate agencies and provide reasonable assurance that environmental requirements will be met  (Source: efcr.gov).

If 23 CFR 772 disqualifies the project for noise remediation, it appears that 23 CFR 771.133 supersedes and requires that the project conform to other existing environmental laws and requirements. Laws such as the Quiet Communities Act of 1978, The Clean Air Act-Title IV Noise Pollution, The Noise Control Act of 1972 and Connecticut’s State Policy 22a-67 all come into play. To quote Connecticut’s State Policy 22a-67, “The primary responsibility for control of noise rests with the state and the political subdivisions thereof … to establish a means for effective coordination of research and activities in noise control.”

Mr. Nikulin’s response and the existing project proposal’s failure to address existing violations of federal and state mandates regarding noise are a disservice to the residents of the community. The state cannot hide behind a narrow section of 23 CFR 772.

If the current traffic of 150,000 a day is not enough to trigger consideration of excessive noise, what is? Do Greenwich residents wait for traffic to increase to 200,000? 250,000? At what point will Connecticut step in to fulfill its obligations for noise control under existing federal and state legislation? Greenwich residents deserve a comprehensive answer.The Riverside Association Board – www.riversideassociation.org