SOUTH PORTLAND — His kitchen, bedroom and hall windows look directly onto the 10-foot-tall wall. But Paul “Andy” Anderson is glad there’s now a barrier between him and the traffic rushing by on Interstate 295.

The state Department of Transportation put up the $1.5 million wall to absorb and deflect highway noise from the neighborhood sandwiched between the interstate and Broadway. The wood-and-concrete composite wall, the first highway sound wall in southern Maine, runs about 3,550 feet along the northbound lanes, roughly from Exit 3 to Exit 4.

Anderson’s home on Hall Street may be the closest of all to the highway. About 10 feet separate the back of the home and the wall, which runs along the length of the house.

The noise of heavy traffic still permeates the neighborhood, where about four dozen families live. But indoors, with the windows shut, it’s surprisingly quiet.

In Anderson’s side yard, where he said traffic noise was once an overwhelming roar, it’s possible now to have a conversation.

“I didn’t expect there would be a sudden stillness,” said Anderson, who has lived in the house since 1959. “I knew there would be a murmur of traffic, and there is. It’s not bad.”

But his wife, Geri, was expecting more. While it’s not bad indoors, she said, it’s still too loud outdoors. “In the summer, I was hoping we would be able to open our windows at night, but we won’t,” she said.

Residents pushed for years to have the sound wall built. The wall became part of a larger, $5.3 million project to add a lane on a portion of I-295. It was completed early this year, though landscaping around it remains to be done.

In the past, the area didn’t qualify for a sound wall, said Nate Howard, a noise specialist for the Department of Transportation. That changed as state noise policies changed and the highway was moved closer to the neighborhood, he said.

It will be a few months before the Department of Transportation takes sound readings in the area, but some agree with Andy Anderson that the wall has made the neighborhood quieter.

“It is better,” said Anthony Ricci, who lives on Fellows Street and owns A.J. Ricci Foundation and Excavation. “It was loud constantly, 18-wheelers going by.”

Nick Caiazzo, who works for Ricci, pointed out how the truck sounds have smoothed out. Gone is their “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noise, he said.

At a home-based day care center on nearby Evergreen Road, the sounds of a dozen children playing on toy cars and tricycles competed with the constant noise from the highway.

Robyn Stanley, an employee of Little Treasures, said the wall seems to muffle the rush-hour traffic and emergency vehicles. “You can still hear it, but the noise has definitely cut down,” she said.

Some residents said they had learned to live with the noise.

Sarah Jones of Hall Street said she is glad that the wall blocked the view of the highway, but she never paid much attention to the noise.

“It’s just a hum in the background,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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