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1352 W. Olive Avenue
P.O. Box 12616
Fresno, CA 93778-2616
(559) 444-2409 (Fresno/Madera)
(559) 488-4082 (Tulare/Kings)
(559) 488-4067 (Kern)
Noise & Vibration Specialists FAQs
Highway noise analysis and abatement/mitigation requirements stem from the following state and federal environmental statutes:
- California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
- National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
- Title 23 United States Code of Federal Regulations, Part 772 “Procedures for Abatement of Highway Traffic Noise and Construction Noise” (23 CFR 772)
- Section 216 et seq. of the California Streets and Highways Code
Noise specialists measure levels by decibels or dBA — a unit of relative loudness. This unit of relative loudness closely approximates the human ear’s response to sound. On this scale, normal breathing registers about 10 dBA, a clothes dryer at 10 feet registers about 50 dBA, and a pickup truck going 50 miles per hour and 50 feet away registers about 70 dBA. Adding 10 decibels doubles the apparent noise level.
Soundwalls are necessary in locations adjacent to the highway where peak-hour noise levels are greater that 65 decibels. A soundwall will be proposed if it can reduce measured noise levels along the highway by 5 decibels.
Heights of walls are based upon their ability to lower the level of traffic noise. If a soundwall height is reduced to a point where it no longer achieves this measured noise reduction, it will no longer qualify for federal funding (and it will not be built). An effective soundwall normally blocks the line of sight from a 5-foot-tall receptor to the 11.5-foot truck exhaust stacks on the highway.
A soundwall will not be built if more than 50% of the first-row property owners (adjacent to the project area) do not want it.
Barriers provide some limited protection from highway particulate matter as evidenced by concentrations often found at the base of the highway side of a soundwall. Soundwalls likely have minimal effect in stopping airborne soot and other aerosol particulate matter and vehicular emissions.
Yes, rubberized asphalt has been reported to reduce noise levels by up to 3 decibels. However, rubberized asphalt requires special conditions to cure properly and can be placed only in select areas.
Caltrans normally provides insulation for non-profit public institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.). Soundwalls and berms are the normal form of noise protection offered by Caltrans to residences. If, after the project is completed, noise levels are 75 decibels or greater, or the project causes an increase of 30 decibels or more, Caltrans will consider noise insulation of private property.