PennDOT wants input on sound walls in Fishtown

With the ex­pan­sion of In­ter­state 95 un­der­way, PennDOT is look­ing for sug­ges­tions when it comes to sound bar­ri­ers in Fishtown and Port Rich­mond.

Eliza­beth Rairigh, hold­ing her Three-month-old Vivi­an, talks with Mari­an Hull of URS dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing on I-95 con­struc­tion pro­jects, Wed­nes­day, June 8, 2011, at Holy Name of Je­sus Church.


When PennDOT rep­res­ent­at­ives asked Fishtown res­id­ents last week if they would like new sound walls to dampen In­ter­state 95’s noise, the an­swer was a re­sound­ing yes.

In fact, the gathered crowd at Holy Name of Je­sus Church, 701 Gaul St., on Wed­nes­day, June 8, seemed to shout in uni­son when Har­vey Knauer, vice pres­id­ent of En­vir­on­ment­al Acous­tics, a com­pany con­trac­ted by PennDOT to study sound levels on the high­way, asked about the sound-dampen­ing walls.

The meet­ing was the first of a series of gath­er­ings through which PennDOT plans to de­term­ine where sound walls should be in­stalled dur­ing the on­go­ing I-95 ex­pan­sion.

Res­id­ents may se­lect not only if they want the walls, but also what they would be made of and what they would look like.

But that res­id­en­tial in­put would have to wait for an­oth­er day. A meet­ing at which plan­ners will ob­tain in­put and present samples of ma­ter­i­als and facades for sound walls will be held at Holy Name on June 29 at 6:30 p.m.

In­stead, res­id­ents learned last week of the sug­ges­ted out­lines for the place­ment of sound walls, which PennDOT rep­res­ent­at­ives said were de­term­ined through a re­cent study.

As presen­ted, I-95 could re­ceive 19,000 feet of sound-dampen­ing walls, stretch­ing nearly from Spring Garden Street to In­di­ana Street.

The walls — which could be between 12 and 18 feet tall, de­pend­ing on place­ment along I-95 — are in­ten­ded to cut traffic noise by at least six decibels.

Knauer said five decibels alone makes a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence to the ear.

“You’ll still hear some noise … The only way to not hear it would be if you built a tube, but then you’d have the noise at the ends,” said Knauer. “But, it will be a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence.”

While he plans to present the ex­act num­bers at fu­ture meet­ings — since, de­pend­ing on where res­id­ents want the walls would ef­fect how much sound the walls will muffle — Knauer said PennDOT is shoot­ing for at least a six decibel de­crease in traffic noise. 

Bob Goodrich, who lives on the 2500 block of Sal­mon Street, said he wanted the sound walls to be big­ger than the pro­posed 12 to 18 feet, be­cause he lives in a three-story house and he wor­ries sound will es­cape the bar­ri­ers.

“The walls could be too short,” said Goodrich. “From the top floor, we will still hear it. This will be bet­ter, but they need to do something about that and the sound un­der I-95, too.”

Con­fron­ted with this con­cern, Mark Rhoads, pro­ject man­ager for the URS Cor­por­a­tion, also con­trac­ted by PennDOT for the I-95 Re­vive pro­ject, said the new ma­ter­i­als used in the on­go­ing con­struc­tion of the high­way would help cut down on traffic noise un­der the road­way as well.

“Also, from a drain­age and main­ten­ance stand­point it should hold up much bet­ter,” he told the audi­ence.

Un­der 95, the pro­ject will also clear out some of the beams and bar­ri­ers, provid­ing res­id­ents with a bet­ter, more open view of the wa­ter­front.

“We are try­ing to re­duce the clut­ter — the visu­al clut­ter — that you see every day,” he said.

A wo­man who lives along the 2600 block of Sal­mon Street, who asked only to be iden­ti­fied as Linda, said she liked the idea of cut­ting down the noise from I-95.

But she said her biggest con­cern was mak­ing sure the pro­ject fol­lowed the de­sires of res­id­ents without ig­nor­ing com­ments gen­er­ated at neigh­bor­hood meet­ings.

“I’m very skep­tic­al,” Linda said. “My biggest con­cern is be­ing walked on … I have a beau­ti­ful yard that I love to spend time in, but I-95 is al­ways over­head … I’m con­cerned about the sound.”

Linda also said she’s wor­ried about the dust and dirt that I-95 con­struc­tion could kick up and send around the com­munity, since much of the area be­ing worked on, like the areas near Rich­mond Street where that road will be moved 60 feet to the east, could be con­tam­in­ated due to years of in­dus­tri­al use.

“I don’t want dust and dirt com­ing in­to the com­munity,” she said.

Over­all, Elaine El­bich, PennDOT pro­ject man­ager for the pro­ject, said last week’s meet­ing was a great op­por­tun­ity to present ele­ments of the pro­ject to res­id­ents.

“We are still look­ing at what we can make avail­able,” she said when asked just what facades and ma­ter­i­als res­id­ents will be able to se­lect from.

To gath­er in­form­a­tion on the sound wall as­pect of the plan, she poin­ted res­id­ents to the meet­ing at the end of the month for an op­por­tun­ity to provide opin­ions.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

Sound bar­ri­er meet­ing

On June 29, PennDOT will hold a meet­ing with res­id­ents liv­ing between Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Palmer Street to se­lect sound wall op­tions.

The meet­ing will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Holy Name of Je­sus Church, 701 E. Gaul St.

Res­id­ents will vote on wheth­er they want sound walls on this por­tion of the re­con­struc­ted high­way and on the de­sired ap­pear­ance of the walls. This sec­tion of the pro­ject is sched­uled to be­gin con­struc­tion next year, and only res­id­ents liv­ing in this area will be eli­gible to vote. Sound wall se­lec­tion meet­ings for fu­ture con­struc­tion phases (from Palmer to Ann Streets and Race to Frank­ford Streets) will be sched­uled as these sec­tions near con­struc­tion.

For more in­form­a­tion, con­tact URS Cor­por­a­tion’s Mari­an Hull at mari­


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