A group of residents from the Riverside Road area of Sandy Hook gathered around Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, State Representative Mitch Bolinsky, and First Selectman Pat Llodra on Friday, October 11. Huddled in a circle near Center Street, residents voiced concerns about highway noise pollution and other related issues.
Mrs Llodra said the meeting was a way to address the quality of life in the area.
The commissioner’s visit, Rep Bolinsky explained, was to hear personal stories from community members.
“Nobody can speak better for this community than you,” said Rep Bolinsky.
Sandy Hook resident Gary Fillion presented a prepared board showing the history of issues caused by the proximity to the highway.
One resident said he is unable to sit outside his home to enjoy a Sunday afternoon, because around that time semi-trucks begin to go by frequently.
Another resident said her house shakes at times, and “things fall off shelves.”
After spending thousands of dollars on theater grade sound proofing over the last few years, one resident said he can still hear the highway when inside his home.
One resident said he moved to the area in 1985, when he said the sound issue “wasn’t that bad,” but now, “it’s like the house roars every night.” Every year, he said, the situation gets worse.
As the commissioner and Rep Bolinsky explained, federal money is not available to cover the installation of sound barriers. Rep Bolinsky told the gathered residents not to feel like it is “us against the government,” because, he said, there are local representatives that will help.
Mr Redeker said he would look into the possibility of planting trees to help alleviate sound levels, but also noted the federal standard is to plant trees 30 feet from the highway.
Rep Bolinsky said he was thrilled to have the commissioner visit with residents, and promised to “work on something together.”
A representative for Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty also attended.
The gathering took place by the construction site for two 100-foot-long I-84 bridges that are being replaced in Riverside are located about 1,000 feet west of Lake Zoar. The two bridges have deteriorated sooner than anticipated and thus need to be replaced. The bridges’ prestressed concrete beams are in poor condition due to cracking. The bridges were built in 1977 and 1978. Bridges typically are designed to last for 75 years of traffic service.
The $5.9 million bridge project includes replacing the bridges' girders and also the concrete deck slabs. Town officials are seeking to have the DOT add barrier wall installation on I-84 in Riverside to the bridge replacement project, or at least have such barriers installed afterwards.
In a press release, Rep Bolinsky said, “The concerns of these residents have been rejected for more than a decade in their need for protective safety and sound barriers in this community. In the meantime, traffic volume continues to increase, along with greater negative impacts to their quality of life. Because of changed circumstances and adverse residential impacts being experienced by constituents in my district, I have respectfully asked the commissioner to reopen consideration of noise abatement measures for the Riverside section of Newtown /Sandy Hook at the points of contact with Interstate 84 Eastbound and Westbound at Center Street. With the construction, noise adversely affects residents' quality of life, flying debris endangers the safety of children at the local bus stop, and there has even been criminal incursion and incidents of illegal trespass into residences originating from I-84 Eastbound.”
Rep Bolinsky also said he supports his constituents who have become frustrated and may feel helpless about the situation.
“Neighbors should not be subjected to falling debris and untenable noise at all hours of the day and night. It is my hope, the visit from the Commissioner Redeker will jumpstart an equitable solution,” said Rep Bolinsky. “I eagerly await my next meeting with Commissioner Redeker to see what kind of remedies lay before us.”