Trees that blocked I-83 noise removed
Interstate 83 is a very literal stone's throw — and not even a particularly formidable one — from the back porches of many of the houses on the east side of Randow Road in Spring Garden Township.
The din of cars, trucks and motorcycles rumbling past during rush hour shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday is unabated for the moment; the trees and other flora that used to muffle the cacophony of traffic, separating the roadway from the residential neighborhood, were stripped out over the past couple weeks as construction crews started the latest phase of the $58.3 million project that will overhaul the nearby interchange with Mount Rose Avenue, which is Exit 18 from the highway.
A sound wall will eventually go up in the trees' place, likely blocking more noise than the trees were able to, residents say.
But it probably won't be up until maybe 2017, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Crochunis.
The long and short of it is it's pretty loud, especially while standing out behind the houses, having a front-row seat to watch cars go hurtling past.
Compensated: PennDOT has secured a temporary right-of-way for portions of many of the homeowners' backyards, where there's some equipment, dirt and paths for crews to move around.
They've compensated people whose yards they've taken over, Crochunis said. He said the amount varies from situation to situation.
Resident Chris Saur said the amount they gave her for a couple years' use of half her family's backyard — and for her trees and fence that they took down — isn't enough.
She said that number started at about $9,000; she took them to court, and PennDOT increased the amount they were willing to pay, she said.
Saur, who's lived there for 14 years, said the construction has been clogging up her pool and bothering her kids and dogs. And her yard for the next few years will be about half the size it normally is.
"It looks so tiny," she said.
Worries: Next door to her, Nghiam Vu, who's lived there since 1997, misses the big trees that used to stand behind his property.
He said all the noise now is annoying, and there's way more of it since the trees were taken down, which he said happened very suddenly just over a week ago.
"Big difference," he said.
For the time being, while there are neither trees nor a sound wall there, he worries about a crash on the highway sending a car into his yard. He has school-age kids who might be outside in nice weather, so that's a big concern for him.
Neighbor Carlos Drake has had a backyard facing the highway since 1995, when he moved into the neighborhood.
Last Wednesday, the back half of his yard, demarcated from the near half by a white paint line and a lip of longer grass, was host to a Caterpillar bulldozer.
Even in front of his house, the noise of the traffic easily drowns out the soft-voiced Drake.
"It becomes oppressive, if you know what I mean," said the former college professor, who retired in 2010 at the age of 81. "We have a lot of noise."
But he's not that worked up about it, as long as the future sound wall does what it's supposed to.
"If it works, I'm all for it," he said.
— Reach Sean Philip Cotter at firstname.lastname@example.org.