Noise level spurs lawsuit
A Galleria couple who sued state and federal transportation agencies over noise pollution attributed to the reconstruction of West Loop 610 are sharing their expertise with neighborhoods near the proposed new interchange for U.S. 290, North Loop 610 and Interstate 10.
Attorney Carol Caul is representing her husband, Bill Ware, and a handful of neighborhoods in a new federal lawsuit asking the Federal Highway Administration to enforce federal noise regulations on the U.S. 290 project, including the $151.5 million interchange segment.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Houston, the lawsuit seeks to ensure that a portion of federal highway dollars used to rebuild the highway are budgeted for noise mitigation.
Neighborhoods participating in the lawsuit are Holly Park, Lazy Brook, Timbergrove Manor, Brookwood Estates and Oak Forest.
Caul and Ware held a meeting in early June with stakeholders, including representatives of Memorial Park Conservancy, to help educate them about the federal noise standards and how they apply to highway projects.
Changes increase noise
According to their presentation, reconstruction plans for the U.S. 290 interchange with Loop 610 include additional elevated main lanes and ramps, which will likely increase traffic noise heard in nearby neighborhoods and parks, including Memorial Park and the Houston Arboretum.
The federal standards that regulate highway noise impacts for these types of land uses are more strict than for commercial land uses.
Several highway design features could be used to mitigate the noise, but adequate measurements and analysis are needed to identify them and create a budget to mitigate them.
Caul and Ware contend FHWA's record of decision on the U.S. 290 project, which gave Texas Department of Transportation the go-ahead to begin construction on the interchange this summer, relies on incomplete measurements of noise impacts to neighborhoods and the park.
As a result, potential noise abatement solutions are not accurately modeled or budgeted in the project, as the federal rules require.
The couple previously sued FHWA and TxDOT in 2004 to have the federal noise standards applied to reconstruction of the interchange between I-10 and the West Loop, which passes by their neighborhood and also impacted the park.
The traffic noise impacts to that segment of Loop 610 had not been measured since 1992, they said.
TxDOT was later removed as a defendant.
While the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not grant a remedy for their neighborhood, it did agree that the federal noise rules should have been applied.
"We know a lot about the issue, and we're trying to help these folks who live along U.S. 290 and, at the same time, go after FHWA again about the arboretum," said Ware.
Not an attempt to delay
Caul said the lawsuit is not an attempt to delay the U.S. 290 project.
"We're not trying to stop the 290 project. I think it's very much needed. People need 290 and they need 610 widened," Caul said. "We're just trying to make FHWA tell TxDOT it has to develop a budget (for noise abatement) based on the regulations."
Additional meetings on the subject are planned, Caul said.
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