Webber Detroit News Op-Ed: State budget should include Troy sound wall funding

Webber Detroit News Op-Ed: State budget should include Troy sound wall funding

By Michael Webber
9th Senate District 

For years now, a group of Oakland County residents living along I-75 have been trying to make their voices heard over a resounding din created after upgrades were made between 13 Mile and Adams.

Back in 2015, the state began a modernization effort that removed established and valuable sound abatement vegetation to expand that part of I-75 by two lanes going north and south. When the project was finally finished, residents say it became obvious that a new level of noise was there to stay.

Those who live in the neighborhoods near the interstate say an increase in sound levels from highway traffic has negatively impacted their quality of life.

Neighbors were quick to come together. They formed a citizens group to present their case and work with public officials to find a solution that would bring more peace and quiet to their homes.

The group rallied the support of more than 1,000 residents across 20 subdivisions and worked diligently with local leaders, state lawmakers and the Michigan Department of Transportation to eventually reassess the noise pollution impact.

With the help of local experts, they did conduct sound studies similar to MDOT’s initial assessments and argued the agency’s historical standards failed to take into account the full impact of extensive vegetation elimination and other factors of modernizing the roadway.

The residents proposed that MDOT update its threshold for acceptable noise levels to the World Health Organization’s 53-decibel standard for humans rather than its 66-decibel target, asserting that noise pollution’s negative effects include elevated stress levels, disrupted sleep patterns that lead to an inability to focus and concentrate, a lack of peace and contribute to long-term health issues over time.

The work and dedication of this grassroots group has been commendable. While it hasn’t been a speedy process, they continued to make their case to public servants and remain determined to make their voices heard.

In April, MDOT officials met with Troy residents at the city’s community center to present the results of the agency’s most recent two-year sound study of the renovated highway corridor. Officials indicated that two sections met the department’s criteria for the construction of a sound wall to reduce excessive noise levels.

MDOT has $4 million from a previous appropriation to build the additional sound walls. However, department officials stated that an additional $10 million is needed to complete the project, and they will not allocate any of their $6.5 billion FY 2022-23 budget to it.

It is now time for the Legislature to act as it prepares and negotiates the state’s 2024 budget. That is why I have formally requested the Senate include this $10 million appropriation in MDOT’s budget, and I will work in a bipartisan manner with my colleagues in the House to ensure their chamber provides for this funding as well.

While many residents along the affected I-75 corridor would like to see even more funding set aside to construct additional sound walls along the route, it is important for the Legislature to provide the necessary financial resources for MDOT to construct the portions of the wall identified by its most recent study.

We owe it to our constituents to push these funds forward in full, and finally get something done for the residents of Troy.

This op-ed appeared in the June 8, 2023 edition of The Detroit News.

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