Gerry Williamson stands next to an 8-foot fence he built in back of his yard on Caliburn Way to block some of the noise from Interstate 20. The state is planning to erect a noise barrier to block the traffic sounds.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A line item included in a gargantuan federal omnibus bill will bring a little piece and quiet to some homeowners abutted against Interstate 20.
Congress squeezed $200,000 into a $373 billion fiscal appropriations bill to erect noise barriers on the north side of I-20, extending 5,800 feet west from the Belair Road exit.
President Bush and the U.S. Senate approved the bill last month, and the $200,000 will be given to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which will erect the barriers.
State DOT officials eliminated a natural noise barrier when they clear-cut many trees along that stretch of interstate a little more than two years ago to create a safety buffer zone.
Since then, residents of Caliburn Place, Belglade and Crawford Mill subdivisions, which are adjacent to I-20, have complained about the traffic noise.
"It's bad," said Ann Williamson, of the 4500 block of Caliburn Way. "You can hardly go outside in your back yard and talk normal. You have to sit there and yell."
Stanley and Imogene Mulherin have lived on the 4500 block of Caliburn Way for 12 years and said they never experienced any noise problems until the trees between their property and the interstate were cut down.
"You learn to live with it, but it's pretty loud," Mrs. Mulherin said. "If you're trying to hold a conversation, and the traffic goes by, you might as well forget it."
Williamson and the Mulherins didn't mind that the $200,000 was included as part of what the taxpayer watchdog group Capital Watch called $23 billion in pork projects.
"I don't know how huge the bill was," Mr. Mulherin said. "I know there has been an effort here going on two years to get them up."
The noise level didn't meet the decibel limit established by the Federal Highway Administration to constitute erecting a barrier, state transportation engineer Mike Thomas said. The only way the state could build the barrier was with federal funds.
Now that the money has been allocated for the project, it still may take several months, even years, before a noise barrier is completed.
"Pre-construction is going to take about 18 months," DOT Augusta Area Engineer Scott Stephens said. "That includes environmental, design, right-of-way acquisition, easements, the actual project construction and all that stuff.
"A project of that magnitude would take about six months to construct. All in all, it will be probably two years before the noise barrier is in place," he said.
Caliburn Way residents say it's a relief just to know that the barrier will be built.
"I was in the military as a career, and I understand the slowness of government budgeting," Mr. Mulherin said.
"I don't care how long it takes," Williamson said. "It will be worth it."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.