ODOT constructing a sound barrier along parts of I-80

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The Ohio Department of Transportation is constructing a sound barrier alongside parts of Interstate 80 that will buffer noise for business and residential areas in Girard, Austintown and Liberty.

The barriers are part of ODOT’s $91 million Interstate 80 road widening project. By September, the state plans on finishing the project, which started 21⁄2 years ago and includes adding a third lane in both directions, adding lights and replacing pavement, said ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic.

By mid-May, ODOT plans to have the sound barriers complete. The first barrier was built in 2016 on I-80 westbound by state Route 11, the second was at I-80 westbound at the U.S. Route 422 exit ramp, the third was at I-80 eastbound on at the 422 entrance ramp, the fourth wall is on I-80 eastbound by Mosier Road, and then the fifth barrier will be at I-80 eastbound at the state Route 193 entrance ramp, Chesnic said.

“We are reducing congestion by widening I-80, which should reduce accidents,” Chesnic said. “There is a lot of truck traffic out there.”

Construction of the fourth wall, which runs alongside a Girard neighborhood, is almost complete. About five years ago, ODOT had a public meeting with Girard residents and officials to gauge if they supported the sound barrier.

One woman who attended was not a fan of the idea.

Arlene Walpole has lived on Morris Avenue in the neighborhood for most of her life. She doesn’t like the new sound barrier because her yard extends about 15 feet from her house, so having the sound barrier there makes her feel closed in. Because she is so close, the traffic is only slightly muffled.

She added the noise didn’t bother her, and she liked seeing the lights from the vehicles at night.

Renee Watts, however, lives on Morris Avenue and is happy to have the barrier. Her yard extends farther from the house, and the traffic is noticeably muffled.

“I love it so far. Before the wall went up, the noise was unbearable. You can’t imagine what we dealt with. Disruptions all day and night,” Watts said.

Walpole said the sound barrier made her property seem darker at night, but Watts said that hasn’t been a problem because she has plenty of lights around her house. She said she looks forward to summer now that her backyard will be more peaceful.

Girard Mayor James Melfi knows the neighborhood well – his family grew up there and his parents still live there.

The highway divided the tight-knit neighborhood in the 1970s. Melfi said he personally saw the need for the sound barrier because residents weren’t happy to see the streets, roads and wooded lots replaced with a noisy highway.

Melfi said he hopes the wall effectively blocks the noise for the residents, recalling his grandparents building a porch facing away from the highway because they didn’t like the noise. He also sees the privacy it provides as a benefit.

“That is a national highway. The wall gives them privacy, it’s long overdue,” he said.

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