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Shorter noise wall part of I-494 project

The Woodbury City Council voted 3-1 at its meeting last week to approve a Mn-DOT-led I-494 expansion project from Lake Road to I-94.

The council's vote includes approval for a staff-recommended shorter version of a noise wall Mn-DOT originally proposed to construct on the southeast quadrant of the project near the Lake Road interchange.

Council member Amy Scoggins, who cast the dissenting vote, said she did not approve of any noise wall, because she feels the noise-reduction benefits of the wall did not outweigh the long-term maintenance issues involved with its construction.

Council member Mary Stephens was absent from the meeting.

The $40 million project, which will be entirely constructed and funded by Mn-DOT, will add a continuous third lane along I-494 from Lake Road to I-94 as well as repave the stretch. The project will take place in two stages beginning in May 2009 and again in January 2010.

For the last two-plus months, city staff have met with residents and business in the neighborhood on the noise wall aspect of the project. Mn-Dot officials said the city could deicide whether it wanted a noise wall constructed, which would reduce the noise from the freeway traffic by 5-7 decibels, said Mn-DOT east metro manager Adam Josephson.

The city held three open houses on the project in January, February and March, and most residents supported some form of a noise wall, said Klayton Eckles, Woodbury deputy public works director.

Some business owners expressed concerns about the noise wall blocking visibility of their buildings for vehicles traveling along the freeway and exit ramp. For that reason, city staff came up with a modified noise wall recommendation that would shorten the planned noise wall by 200 feet.

The shortened noise wall would still provide adequate sound reduction for the residential area. It will allow some of the concerned businesses, such as KinderCare and Haskell's which are located just off Lake and Courtly roads, to maintain visibility, Eckles said.

Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis said he has concerns about the long-term maintenance issues involved with construction of a noise wall, and encouraged Mn-DOT to work on developing an official maintenance policy that would dedicate funding toward maintaining the quality of noise walls along freeway corridors.

Some of the concerns involving maintenance of the noise walls revolve around vehicle strikes, plow damage and graffiti, Josephson told the council.

Residents of a 20-plus town home association supported a longer version of the noise wall.

Along with its approval of the project, the council also directed staff to being formulating a landscaping plan for the area, which was encouraged by some residents.