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Chester Noise Walls: Frequently Asked Questions


What is a noise wall?

A highway noise wall is a wall built alongside a highway that interrupts the flow of sound waves from one area to another. Building a noise wall is a common approach to dulling highway traffic noise for nearby residents and businesses. A noise barrier can also be in the form of a berm, which acts the same as a wall but is constructed with earth. A berm, however, requires a large amount of space and is a less common noise abatement method in an urbanized area.

When will construction begin?

PennDOT expects to begin Phase 1 installation of proposed noise walls in 2026 along northbound I-95 on 12th Street between Madison Street and Melrose Avenue in the City of Chester, pending approval by property owners and tenants in the immediate area.

Future walls will require more complex engineering solutions, land purchases, or coordination with other projects in the corridor. PennDOT is completing technical work on the more complex sections of the project area while it moves forward with this initial set of walls on 12th Street in the City of Chester.

How long will this project take to complete?

Phase 1 noise walls between Madison Street and Melrose Avenue, are expected to begin construction in 2026 and be completed by 2028. Once designed, future phases are likely to take two to three years to build. 

Where are noise walls planned in Chester?

PennDOT proposes to build noise walls in phases at 16 locations along more than three miles of I-95 from Highland Avenue to the bridge over Ridley Creek in the City of Chester and Chester Township. The Chester Noise Abatement Project seeks to help reduce the environmental impact of the sound generated from the interstate and block the views of I-95 for residents living near it.

Where are noise walls proposed?

The map below shows where noise walls are proposed along I-95.  

Why aren’t all the noise walls built at the same time?

The complexity of building noise walls in the project area varies by location. Therefore, to advance the project, PennDOT is prioritizing the design and construction of less complex noise walls to speed up their installation. The department will first install noise walls that can be constructed without property impacts, complex engineering approaches, or impacting other nearby transportation projects. 

What is the schedule for installing noise walls on the southern part of the project area between Highland Avenue and Kerlin Street?

The timeframe for installing proposed noise walls along this part of I-95 is contingent on the engineering plan development for the nearby I-95/U.S. 322 Interchange improvement project. This adjacent PennDOT transportation improvement project extends up I-95 to Kerlin Street and could involve physical alterations to the highway that would affect the proposed noise wall locations.

Design details for the interchange project are being developed that will help determine the timing for noise walls in this area. As public involvement for the I-95/U.S. 322 Interchange progresses, noise walls could become an early action project, so it is difficult to project an exact time. 

How did PennDOT determine the locations of these proposed noise walls?

The locations were determined by the detailed noise analysis conducted along I-95 between Highland Avenue and the bridge over Ridley Creek. This analysis consisted of identifying noise-sensitive land uses adjacent to I-95, the majority of which are residential properties that range from single-family homes to high-density apartment complexes.

Other noise-sensitive land uses in the project area include a mosque, several churches, and multiple parks, playgrounds, sports facilities, and other outdoor recreation areas. The project area was organized into 13 Noise Study Areas (NSAs), and noise monitoring was conducted at 42 locations adjacent to the project area. Computer modeling was then performed to predict and evaluate existing and future noise levels associated with traffic-induced noise. The noise analysis recommended noise abatement, in the form of noise walls.  

When will the public involvement program start for the Chester Noise Abatement Project?

PennDOT anticipates starting Phase 1 public involvement activities in summer 2024 by meeting with residents and property owners who live next to northbound I-95 between Madison Street and Melrose Avenue, where the first proposed noise walls are planned for installation.

Will the community be involved in the decision for noise walls?

Yes, PennDOT will solicit the viewpoints of property owners and tenants who would benefit from a noise wall as part of the project’s public involvement process. The property owners and tenants living near each proposed noise wall can vote on whether they are in favor of the proposed noise wall. Of all the votes tallied, 50% or greater must be in favor of the proposed noise wall. Property owners and tenants living near the noise wall will also vote on the community-side appearance of the wall.  

Do I have any say about the type or appearance of a noise wall where I live?

Yes, during the noise wall public involvement program, property owners and tenants living in a respective noise-sensitive area will vote on whether to approve the noise wall. If approved, the property owners and tenants will choose the texture and color of the wall facing the residents.  

Will noise wall construction impact my property and quality of life?

Residents living near proposed noise wall areas may be susceptible to noise impacts during construction. Work activities and equipment associated with construction are likely to elevate noise levels temporarily. Work may also occur during overnight hours if needed to minimize traffic disruptions on I-95. PennDOT will aim to minimize construction-related impacts for residents living near the construction sites.

In some locations, the installation of a noise wall may include some loss of yard area or trees adjacent to I-95. However, PennDOT will make efforts to save as many trees as possible. In general, it is best to locate noise walls as close as possible to either the highway or the impacted community to be most effective. Either way, the walls will be built on PennDOT-owned land and be the property of PennDOT. 

Do noise walls really work?

Yes, they do. Typical noise reductions usually range from 5 to 10 decibels. Because noise walls are open to the air above and around them, sound bends over and around the walls – just as light bends around obstructions – through the principle of diffraction. Diffraction limits the effectiveness of any wall to a maximum noise reduction of 10 to 15 decibels. Noise walls work best if the line of sight is broken from the noise source to the receptor. If there are gaps, the noise will simply travel through that opening like light will illuminate through gaps. If a building is located higher than a noise wall, the noise will travel over the wall to the building. See the image below for a summary of how noise walls work. 

 

Who is paying for this noise wall project?

The Chester Noise Abatement Project is financed with 100 percent state funds.

How much will the project cost?

The total project cost will not be established until all construction contracts are awarded and the low-bid dollar amounts are known. The region’s Transportation Program currently allocates $26.9 million in construction funds and $5.3 million in design and right-of-way funds for the Chester Noise Abatement Project.

The actual cost of noise walls can often be more than $2 million per mile under normal conditions and can become more than $3 million per mile if noise walls must be placed on bridges or involve other special designs, such as retaining walls.

What is noise abatement?

Noise abatement is the lessening of sound from a particular source. As it relates to a highway, since the source of traffic noise is the combination of vehicles on a highway, the only practical option is to try to reduce the noise along the path between the highway and the listeners. The most common outdoor noise reduction method is the construction of noise walls. These walls can take different forms, as long as they break the line-of-sight between the vehicles on the highway and affected residential communities. Barriers can be in the form of walls or topographical changes.

Topographical changes can occur by building earth berms or hills between the highway and the communities or by depressing a highway. To be effective, any noise wall must be solid.

What is PennDOT’s noise wall policy?

PennDOT noise wall policy is described in PennDOT Publication 24. In summary, it is to evaluate highway traffic noise impacts that are the result of current, qualifying highway improvement projects. The highway improvement projects that qualify for potential noise mitigation are:  

  • Construction of a highway in a new location.
  • Construction to add lanes to an existing highway. 
  • Construction that realigns an existing highway. 
  • Construction to move or expand an interchange.

The Chester Noise Abatement Project is a retrofit noise wall project sponsored by the Chester Environmental Partnership, the City of Chester, Delaware County Planning Commission, and initiated by PennDOT after being approved and funded through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. A retrofit project is done along an existing highway without either new construction or reconstruction as described above.  

Retrofit noise wall projects occur very infrequently, normally at the direction of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Some walls have been built on highways in the region under this scenario. Retrofit walls are not eligible for federal funds and must be paid for through state or local funds. This project was programmed with regional transportation funds in recognition of the singular impact of I-95 on the nearby community that has not been addressed.

What does I-95 Section CNA mean?

I-95 Section CNA is PennDOT’s project title for the Chester Noise Abatement Project. Every PennDOT project title consists of the state route number and a section name or abbreviation. In this case, I-95 is the highway-related to the project and CNA is the project’s section name. CNA stands for “Chester Noise Abatement.” 

Why weren’t noise walls included when I-95 was built in Chester?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 and other modern legislation regulating the environmental impacts of federally funded projects were not in effect when Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds were allocated for the initial design and construction of I-95 in Pennsylvania in the 1960s. It seems very unlikely that many of I-95’s original design elements that impacted communities in the City of Chester and Chester Township and other locations in southeastern Pennsylvania would be approved by environmental resource agencies today.

Where can I find more noise wall information from PennDOT?

Visit the Highway Traffic Noise section of the PennDOT website – www.penndot.pa.gov – and click on the following link: PennDOT – Highway Traffic Noise.

What is the traffic volume on I-95 in the Chester area?

I-95 carries an average of 121,500 to 252,000 vehicles per day through the project area in Chester.

How do I add my name to the email information distribution list?

You can sign up for the 95DelCo email distribution list by visiting the Get Involved section of this website, clicking on the Subscribe link, and filling out your contact information.

How can I comment on the project?

PennDOT welcomes and appreciates public comments and viewpoints about the Chester Noise Abatement Project. Comments can be submitted by visiting the Get Involved section of this website, then clicking on the Comment link and following the steps to write and submit a comment.