CDOT’s search for a sound policy |

CDOT’s search for a sound policy

Efforts by Ranch at Roaring Fork homeowners to muffle noise from Highway 82 have run into bureaucratic red tape that threatens to break their sound barrier.

The homeowners have overcome a major barrier in itself by coming up with the $1.3 million required to pay for a mile-long wall between them and the major Roaring Fork Valley thoroughfare. But the Colorado Department of Transportation determined that it currently lacks a policy for building private structures on public right of way, and must consider things such as environmental impacts and future need of right of way for purposes such as bus use.

Homeowners could build the wall on private land, further from the highway, but it would have to be much higher to have the same effect, and would cost more as a result, besides having increased visual impact.

The state Transportation Commission is working to finalize a new policy covering cases such as this one. As it’s being envisioned now, a local government entity would have to sponsor a private party’s application for a sound barrier. To Garfield County’s credit, it already has made a tentative commitment to Ranch at Roaring Fork homeowners to serve as sponsor.

Rarely is it the case that residents are going to be able to pay the hefty costs associated with a sound barrier. Where they can accomplish that, CDOT should make every effort to work with them toward an acceptable solution. In this case, that could entail permission to build in the right of way, with the understanding that the structure might have to be relocated or removed later if the right of way is needed for other purposes.

People living next to a highway understand, or should understand, that noise is going to be a neighbor. And CDOT can’t be expected to cover the costs of sound barriers through the many residential and business areas bisected by roads.

But particularly as highways expand and traffic increases, residents should be able to pursue reasonable mitigation alternatives if they are willing to pay the cost.

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