CALDWELL — Caldwell city officials are against a proposed noise barrier along both sides of Interstate 84, but the final decision is not up to them.
Caldwell City Council voted 5-0 Monday night to pass a resolution voting against the noise wall, which would stand between Centennial Way and 10th Avenue along both sides of I-84. Property owners in the area of impact will also have a vote on whether the wall is built.
The consideration of noise barriers is part of the Idaho Transportation Department’s ongoing environmental study to determine potential improvements in Caldwell. ITD’s analysis of noise walls shows that it’s feasible and reasonable to have 13-foot noise walls on both sides of the freeway, the Idaho Press previously reported. ITD has already built some sound walls along parts of I-84 in Boise between the Broadway exit and Five Mile Road.
Caldwell business owners fear the walls would block drivers’ view of their stores.
Carol and Albert Moore, owners of Carol’s Barber and Style, which is visible next to Exit 27, wrote in a comment at ITD’s June open house that some of their customers came in after seeing the shop from the freeway.
A neighboring business, Imperial Taxidermy, submitted a letter to ITD saying a noise wall would reduce the value of their property and deter future commercial development.
“I urge you abandon this crazy notion, and take action on repairing a deteriorating highway and freeway system,” the letter reads.
The properties closest to the proposed noise wall are occupied by businesses, according to some of the feedback from the open house. Mayor Garret Nancolas said the land adjacent to the freeway is zoned for commercial use, and it bleeds into a residential zone a few blocks down. He did not mention hearing any feedback from homeowners on the subject.
Nancolas said the council voted no on the proposed noise wall because they agreed the barrier would have a negative impact on the nearby businesses and that walls on both sides of the freeway would block the view of the rest of Caldwell from motorists. Staff recommended the city vote no on the noise wall.
“Those walls kind of create a tunnel,” Nancolas said.
ITD spokesman Jake Melder said the final step in the agency’s process in determining whether a noise wall should be built is gauging how desirable it is for the community, which is why the department is seeking a public vote.
Property owners will have the first opportunity to vote on the noise wall. ITD hasn’t established a timeline for that yet, Melder said.
According to an ITD document, if 50% or more property owners in the impacted area vote for a noise wall, ITD will consider it a desired project. If less than 50% of property owners vote for a noise wall, renters in the impacted area will have a chance to vote. It will take at least 75% of renters supporting the wall for ITD to consider it a desired project.
“What (ITD is) saying is, ‘Tell us. Tell us what you want,’” Nancolas said.
The city of Caldwell received a say in the decision because it owns Lions Park, which amounts to 19 votes, according to ITD officials.
Nancolas said the city would not be responsible for paying for the walls. They would be federally funded, Melder said, though he doesn’t yet have a cost estimate.