82 sound barrier runs into policy wall | PostIndependent.com

82 sound barrier runs into policy wall

by Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

All that’s not standing between the Ranch at Roaring Fork and a little more peace and quiet is a 12-foot-high noise barrier.

Money is not the problem.

The Ranch at Roaring Fork Homeowners Association has money and engineering plans in hand to build a $1.3 million, mile-long noise barrier on state-owned right-of-way along Highway 82.

But the project is stalled due to an unexpected roadblock placed by the Colorado Department of Transportation earlier this year.

Ranch at Roaring Fork Homeowners Association leaders hope a new policy the Colorado Transportation Commission will consider in Denver Thursday will pave the way for the barrier. Even so, the association doesn’t expect a smooth road to completion for its wall.

“A lot of things have to work perfectly, to allow the wall to come about,” said Ranch at Roaring Fork Homeowners Association President Thomas Neel.

The Ranch at Roaring Fork subdivision includes 150 single-family homes and condominiums and a nine-hole golf course. It’s located along the south side of Highway 82, just east of Carbondale.

The nearest row of houses is approximately 50 yards off the highway.

When CDOT widened Highway 82 a decade ago, it brought the highway closer to Ranch at Roaring Fork, and raised the highway platform.

“Traffic noise in the community has risen to unacceptable levels,” Neel told the Garfield County Commissioners in a Nov. 13 memo.

The Ranch’s solution was to sell 17 acres of land for $2 million in 2001 to pay for the wall, and work with CDOT on the project, Neel said.

To date, the Homeowners Association has spent approximately $106,000 on engineering, consultants and legal fees, “not counting untold hours contributed by residents,” Neel said.

Early this year, CDOT regional director Owen Leonard told the homeowners association he wouldn’t consider approving the wall until the Colorado Transportation Commission adopts a policy that covers private structures built on state right-of-way.

“There needs to be a policy to delineate terms and conditions,” Leonard said. “There is nothing in our procedures that allows me to approve this. This is a complex issue.”

Leonard said considerations include environmental issues, and possible bus use.

“The reality of it is, the right of way is for transportation uses,” Leonard said.

Neel told the county commissioners the homeowners could build the sound barrier on subdivision land beyond the Highway 82 right-of-way.

But a wall built farther from the highway would have to be 20 feet tall in some sections to deaden the sound, rather than the 12-foot wall that would accomplish the same thing built closer to the road on state land.

“Constructing the barrier on state right-of-way closer to the highway reduces the barrier height, making the project financially and aesthetically viable,” Neel’s memo said.

The state right-of-way between the Highway 82 shoulder and Ranch at Roaring Fork property varies from 28 feet to 42 feet in width, said CDOT surveyor Larry Baughman.

On Monday, Neel explained the situation to the Garfield County Commissioners, whose help he will need if the new policy is adopted.

Three key provisions in the policy are:

– All applicants for locally funded noise barriers shall be local governmental entities or agencies. “This means that the Ranch may no longer apply. It must secure a sponsor such as Garfield County to apply in its behalf,” Neel told the county commissioners.

– Noise barrier projects can be placed on public rights of way only if a local sponsoring agency establishes that no other reasonable alternative is available.

– All costs will be the responsibility of the private entity.

The Garfield County Commissioners gave the Ranch “theoretical” approval of the $1.3 million wall Monday, and said they are interested in pursuing an application with CDOT on the Ranch’s behalf.

The Colorado Department of Transportation holds a workshop on right-of-way use today, and the commission hears a final policy recommendation Thursday.

Neel said the Ranch at Roaring Fork has been working with CDOT on noise issues since 1999, and is ready to start constructing the wall next spring.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534


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