As public works projects go, a sound barrier along an interstate highway isn't as exciting as a new school or library.
Those new barriers on Interstate 20 will cost almost as much, though - and maybe that's why they've taken so long to build.
More than five years ago, residents of neighborhoods that back up to I-20 near Belair Road complained loudly when a state Department of Transportation project stripped away the trees between the highway and their homes.
The DOT took down the trees, officials said, to improve motorists' safety. Nearby residents rightly worried that errant motorists, instead of hitting trees, would now have an unobstructed path to crash into their homes.
No such crashes have happened since the trees were removed. A more prevalent problem, however, is the noise generated by all those non-crashing vehicles zooming past. Without trees to help soak up the sound, the nearby neighborhoods are treated to 24-hour-per-day road noise.
Two years after residents complained to the DOT, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood added $200,000 to a federal spending bill to build sound barriers on I-20. Three years later - on Monday - state Rep. Ben Harbin announced that more than $8 million in state funds will be spent to finally get the barriers built.
"We owe it to our communities along this corridor to protect them as best we can from this noise," Harbin said in a news release. "Thus, I was pleased that the Georgia Department of Transportation agreed with my strong suggestion that we build these barriers."
Because Harbin's "strong suggestion" comes from the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and because it comes with millions in funding, it's no surprise that the DOT agreed. Construction is supposed to start this summer, and will create nearly two miles of sound barriers on each side of the interstate.
The sound barriers will look like those that will be built as part of the I-20-Bobby Jones Expressway project, Harbin says, and are expected to take about a year to complete.
Once finished, that will make it nearly six years that residents of neighborhoods such as Crawford Mill and Valley Brook have been living with extra road noise, courtesy of the DOT. They'll now have a little more peace and quiet - if they can tune out the howls of taxpayers footing the bill.
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