Speed enforcement part of I-70 noise plan
The speed limit on Interstate 70 through Vail is 65 mph. Remember that, because next month Vail police will start patrolling the highway, searching out speed scofflaws.
The enforcement effort – which will begin with warnings for all but “egregious” offenders – is part of a plan to attempt to muffle the highway’s noise through town. In addition to speed enforcement, town officials will look at other ways to dull the near-constant roar of traffic.
The town recently authorized a $90,000 consulting contract with Hankard Environmental of Fort Collins to monitor noise levels on the interstate and develop a noise mitigation plan for the highway.
Part of that plan may involve setting up a type of temporary noise wall along the interstate. That wall might consist of empty semi-trailers parked along either the interstate or the frontage roads. The trailers would be provided with the cooperation of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, a trucking industry group now involved in ways to try to cut the noise.
If brought to Vail, the trailers would be parked in various locations around town for a few weeks at a time. If noise walls are proven effective, the town will seek funding for more permanent structures.
The combination of reduced speed and strategically placed noise walls could net a two- to three-decibel reduction in the thrum from the highway, Vail Town Councilman Greg Moffet said. Either measure alone might drop highway noise perhaps one dB, which would be barely noticeable, Moffet said. However, a two- or three-dB drop would be significant, given the way sound pressure is measured.
“I just hope it works,” Moffet said. “If it doesn’t, we’re going to have to find a way to lower the speed limit through town to 50 (mph). And if that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to dig a big hole.”
Surveys of summer tourists indicate highway noise is becoming an increasing problem. And Vail residents near the highway – which is most of them – are becoming more and more frustrated.
“We built a deck off our house about 10 years ago; we can’t use it any more,” said Councilman Dick Cleveland.
While big trucks get perhaps more than their share of the blame for interstate noise, Cleveland said the volume and speed of traffic are also responsible. “The noise is just no longer acceptable,” he said.
But getting trucks to quiet down would be worth the effort, Cleveland said. As an commuter between Vail and Summit County, Cleveland said he sees how fast traffic runs through town, including the heavy trucks. “My pet peeve is trucks doing 80 mph through town, then hitting their jake brakes before they hit Dowd Canyon,” Cleveland said.
The council on March 16 finally killed a proposed ordinance to ban the use of jake brakes through town. And as more trucks use the engine brakes with mufflers, trucks will become quieter, said Greg Fulton of the motor carriers group.
Progress is being made, Moffet and Cleveland said. But more needs to be done.
“It’s becoming an issue about our economic vitality,” Moffet said of the noise issue. “I-70 is a blessing and a curse. It makes us different than other resorts. We have to figure out how to live with it.”