Tara sound wall needed to muffle I-75 noise, residents say

jajones1@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2014 

TARA -- A stick in the eye.

That was Darby Connor's reaction to the recent news in the Bradenton Herald that a 22-foot sound wall would be constructed along Interstate 75 from the Nathan Benderson Park parking lot south to Fruitville Road.

Connor is upset because Tara residents have been asking for a sound wall for years to muffle I-75 traffic noise.

"It's kind of disheartening seeing them putting a wall up down the street and ignoring our concerns," said Connor, a former community development district supervisor for The Preserve at Tara. He has long been an advocate for a sound barrier along Tara's eastern side.

"We really lobbied hard and got nowhere," Connor said. "We are the closest community along this corridor to I-75."

The portion of I-75 in Sarasota County to receive a sound barrier was selected after a federally required sound study commissioned as part of the $60 million University Parkway interchange project.

The improvements include adding a diverging diamond interchange at I-75 and University Parkway, and widening about 3.5 miles of the interstate to eight lanes.

What sticks most objectionably in Connor's throat is that the Florida Department of Transportation polled 42 residents along that stretch of I-75 in Sarasota County, and 35 of them asked for, and will receive, a sound barrier.

That compares with 1,100 residents in Tara who have been begging for a sound barrier along I-75 from State Road 70 to the Linger Lodge Road overpass, Connor said.

But there still could be hope for Tara residents. Robin Stublen, a spokesman for the FDOT, said Monday that there is also an ongoing survey of the I-75-S.R.70 intersection.

"There is a design project currently ongoing for improvements to S.R. 70 and I-75," Stublen said. "A noise study of this area is included with this design project, including a survey of impacted and benefitted residents, just as was done for the I-75 and University design project.

"If a noise barrier for the Preserve at Tara is found during the design process to meet feasibility and cost reasonableness requirements, a survey of impacted and benefitted residents will be conducted," Stublen added.

The design of improvements to I-75 at S.R. 70 has not yet progressed far enough, he noted, to answer whether there is a need for a noise barrier.

FDOT considers a noise barrier only when there is a modification of the existing roadway. If a noise barrier meets all federal and state requirements, it would be constructed with the roadway improvements, Stublen said.

Connor questions why Tara has gone begging for a sound wall for so long.

"The FDOT does not approve development along the interstate, nor do we have any means to require developers to include noise abatement for their developments. Land uses are regulated by the local government, either county and/or city government," Stublen said.

Sound walls are generally not put in after the fact, he said.

In 2008, dozens of Tara residents gathered at a FDOT public hearing held at Woodland Baptist Church to plead for a sound barrier along I-75.

"It's like hearing a loud vacuum cleaner running all day long," a Tara resident told FDOT officials then.

But the answer that Tara received in 2008 was similar to Stublen's response this week: The only way a wall can be added is if it's part of a general widening project.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.

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