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Town Reaches Tentative Agreement for NJ Turnpike Sound Wall

Mayor announces cost sharing plan with NJ Turnpike Authority to mitigate noise issues for residents of Lawrence Brook.

After months of negotiations, weary residents of East Brunswick's Lawrence Brook neighborhood may finally find some relief from the noise pollution of the ongoing Exit 9 expansion project.

Mayor David Stahl announced at Monday's Township Council meeting a deal to construct a sound wall that will provide a buffer for residents of Lawrence Brook from the issues that have arisen as a result of the project.

"I'm very pleased to announce tonight, that after months of working with representatives of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, that we've reached a tentative agreement to construct a sound wall barrier to better protect the Lawrence Brook neighborhood," Stahl said during the meeting.

Residents of Lawrence Brook previously asked the Turnpike Authority during a public meeting in August to build a barrier wall between their properties and the roadway. Concerns exist over a potential drop in the value of homes due to the increased noise from traffic and construction, concerns for possible structural damage from the constant vibration, and safety issues.

In June, the Turnpike Authority halted construction at Westons Mill Road for a few weeks while a study was conducted on the effect of vibrations generated by the construction on nearby homes.

The Exit 9 expansion project includes widening the ramp that connects Route 18 southbound and the turnpike to two lanes, and improving the exit ramp merging onto Route 18 north. Turnpike officials have said the Exit 9 project is vital for operational and safety improvements to deal with a high volume of traffic entering and exiting the toll plaza. 

Mayor Stahl said in reaching the agreement they utilized data from a sound study, along with input from residents affected by the project.

"We all know the Turnpike has rigid standards on how to make the determination on whether a wall will be constructed or not," he said during the meeting.

Stahl noted the agreement involves a creative plan for cost sharing the project between the township and the NJ Turnpike Authority. The exact details of how much of the cost will be borne by each entity remains to be ironed out, he said.

The exact details of the plan will come back to the council for discussion in the weeks ahead, as the authority will also return to a future meeting with plans for the wall and landscaping. 

"I appreciate the community's passion in aiding me to get this project done, and I appreciate your patience," Stahl added.
John Romano October 17, 2013 at 04:41 PM
.....so ...you lived next to the Tpke for YEARS ......you don't like an improvement project that's on Tpke property ....you whine about noise that's been present for YEARS ...and the TOWN has to share the cost of a sound wall? That's okay by me ....but make sure Mr Mayor ...that the cost of the wall ...is ONLY footed by increased taxes on THOSE PROPERTY OWNERS THAT COMPLAINED AND WILL BENEFIT FROM SAID WALL. I also want to see EXACTLY how much the town will have to pay ...because ...I want to know ..again ...how much it costs to buy a vote. The deals this town makes ...are something that legendary comedy routines are made of.
Lisa Ostrowski October 17, 2013 at 07:38 PM
That's our mayor! Always willing to help a voter in need. I would like to see numbers. Where is the precedent for this? Have other towns had to 'cost-share' for walls that protect their residents from the turnpike noise? And exactly how much of our tax money is paying to protect the properties of a dozen or so people who bought their house next to the turnpike and then were surprised to find out it was noisy?
Wwe Tensai October 17, 2013 at 08:47 PM
I suspect the Mayor wants to get rid of this as soon as possible. He was the only person from the town allowed to deal with the TA, he would sporadically report on the state of negotiations to the residents, and didn't seem real pleased with the "passion" of the resdients on this issue (and other issues like having a town attorney who also works for the TA, hiring an "independent" firm to do a sound study that "forgot" to take readings from houses next to the ramp etc.) As far as the residents, many bought the homes before the expansion in the 80's and a few even before Exit 9 was built. Bottom Line: The Turnpike Authority had no earthly reason why they can't pay for and put up a few lousy sound wall panels.
Christopher October 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Seeing how quickly the construction is going, I don't see why everyone doesn't just suck it up and just let it get done. That sound barrier will do wonders for property values in that area once the project is complete. </sarcasm>
Wwe Tensai October 18, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Well, if it isn't put up, property values will certainly drop, and East Brunswick can't afford to lose anymore shine than it already has. Remember: this is a town that could only get WalMart to come in.
Wwe Tensai October 18, 2013 at 07:16 PM
Also, The TA's own numbers say that traffic between Exits 6 and 9 will increase up to 92% from now thru 2033 (which is why they want to expand). I'm sure the increased tolls will more than cover the cost and any cough, cough, additional expenses.
Deborah Gates October 18, 2013 at 07:30 PM
My parents built their home in Lawrence Brook manor in 1955. Many of their neighbors are also fifty year plus residents. My grandfather co-founded the local volunteer fire department. Both my grandfather and father were volunteer fire fighters. We were here before the Turnpike. Our property values continue to deteriorate because of the Turnpike and its never ending expansion.
John Romano October 18, 2013 at 07:38 PM
.....and you somehow feel that a 15' foot concrete wall is going to bolster property values?
Deborah Gates October 18, 2013 at 09:22 PM
The adverse health effects of elevated noise levels are documented in the medical literature. A well designed noise barrier can both reduce noise levels and be aesthetically pleasing.
Faith Martens October 18, 2013 at 10:35 PM
It is disheartening to see that any resident in the town wouldn't want to see their neighbors live in a healthier, safer environment. The neighborhood was not in this state before the natural divider was cut down for the expansion project and the project is moving the ramp closer to homes than it was. The projection for the increase in traffic is worrisome. There are almost no residential neighborhoods that run along the NJTPK that do not have a sound wall. I don't see how the TA is not fully funding this but regardless, maintaining the Lawrence Brook neighborhood behooves the entire township because a dip in property values and neighborhood quality brings down the whole of the town and it's image. It's not ok for the people who live in the neighborhood to not deserve a healthier solution because the runaway train that is the TA decided to expand closer to their homes and take away the mature trees that helped insulate their homes. Sadly, this project affects more than 10 homes, many homes with elderly as well as those with children. Regardless of the proximity to the NJTPK people who live here deserve a safer, healthier alternative to the projected work.
John Romano October 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM
......sound walls are aesthetically pleasing ....until someone 'tags' it with graffiti. That's a good sized chunk of change to buy a blackboard for a vandal. There is a pronounced grade differential between the Tpke. entrance / exit ramp and the properties along Westons Mill Road (and points beyond). That by itself is a noise mitigation "barrier". Secondly ...the noise study for the Tpke work indicated that noise barriers were not warranted, and that the sound levels were predicted to change almost undetectable levels of between 0 to 1 decibel from what experienced from the existing condition. Additionally, the level was expected to decrease because Rte 18 is being shifted to the east ...away from the residential neighborhood.
Faith Martens October 19, 2013 at 03:41 PM
John you seem to have a lot of information on the project but you don't have all the details. The sounds levels without the trees are much higher with peak levels over 100 Dbs which causes hearing damage when exposed consistently over time. Lovely for children frowning up in ten neighborhood. The grade is not a natural sound barrier. The constant down shifting of trucks in the ramps provide lovely rumbling extremely loud noise plus since the traffic is expected to become exponentially larger the wall is necessitated to mitigate future environmental needs Erin's those f today. As far as graffiti, check out the walls in New Brunswick which has much more severe graffiti issues. There it's any. That's a few reasons, the biggest being that is it 2013 and now materials are available that make the walls resistant to graffiti and the paint doesn't stick. Sound studies have shown that the wall is most certainly needed. You're misinformed.
Faith Martens October 19, 2013 at 03:44 PM
Rt 18 is shifting SOME but not so very far that the sound will decrease especially with more traffic being fed into an already clogged roadway but the ramp is going to be twice as wide while also moving over 20 ft closer to the neighborhood with a projected increase in traffic of over 90% in the next 19 years. Don't you think that merits a protective sound wall for your neighbors?!
John Romano October 19, 2013 at 04:33 PM
....misinformed? Well, Faith ...I think I'm quite capable of reading the Noise Analysis Technical Report that was prepared for the NJ Tpke ...and at no time ...does any of the receptor sites report report a noise level exceeding 73 dBA (that is for a residence on Myron Place). The dBA levels are reported for receptor at a 50' foot separation from the noise source. A 100 dBA level (at 50' feet) can be expected from a pneumatic pile driver ....not from traffic ...not all the time ...and not from trucks. Said pile driver is one of the pieces of construction equipment that will be used at the site ...and then ...it goes away. If a sound wall was constructed ...the openings that will remain to accommodate the existing on / off ramp connectors to Westons Mill Rd will likely negate the effectiveness of any wall. For a bit of comparison ....a hand held hair dryer can produce between 60 to 90 dBA levels ....a subway can be between 90 to 110 dBA.
Deborah Gates October 19, 2013 at 05:05 PM
There's a reason Turnpike personnel resisted releasing their "study" to my family. The noise data is flawed. As one neighbor observed, the Turnpike levels were so low that they likely were gathered during a snowstorm. The noise level measured by the residents using scientific equipment were much higher.
Wwe Tensai October 19, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Also, there is/are sound walls up and down the rest of the turnpike, why not here?
John Romano October 19, 2013 at 05:18 PM
.....sound that comes from a 12 lane roadway that is carrying traffic at 60 plus miles per hour is quite different from that which will be expected along Route 18 which has a maximum speed limit of 45, miles per hour and the exit ramp which has a speed limit of approximately 15 or 20 miles per hour.
Wwe Tensai October 19, 2013 at 05:18 PM
John, the original sound report that said the levels were fine was prepared by the contractor. The town had an independent report done by an engineer who "forgot" to place monitiors in front of the houses NEXT TO THE RAMP on Weston Mill Road.. He tap danced around this at the town council meeting first claiming that he didn't get back permission letters sent to the residents. When he was confronted by those same residents in the audience who never received them, he then starts to say "I sent them certified..." and then quickly changes the subject. Meanwhile, Jim White, our erstwhile town administrator sits there and says nothing. Watch it on EBTV, its around the 54 minute mark. Had he put the monitors in front of those houses, you can be sure that the readings would have been a crapload higher than 73 decibels.
Wwe Tensai October 19, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Deborah, any chance that Gates Ave. in Pine Ridge is named for your family?
John Romano October 19, 2013 at 07:08 PM
....the noise study was prepared by Jacobs Engineering ...for ...the NJ Tpke Authority ...in conjunction with the proposed construction. The "contractor" utilizes the study and puts in place any measures (during construction) to mitigate the noises created during said construction. ....what I'm hearing is that you want "zero noise". That's not going to happen. And ...if it could happen ...at what cost is it acceptable? A 10 ' foot high wall that would mitigate noise for the (6) six closest 'receptors' ....is about $750,000 ...and that's in 2011 dollars ...and is a "wall alone" cost ...not factoring in all the additional items needed to be addressed / built as part of the wall installation. So ...why not jack that figure to $1 million ...to start with. What part of that $1 million are you willing to pay for?
Faith Martens October 19, 2013 at 10:31 PM
John are you a resident or do you work for the turnpike or someone else related to the project?
John Romano October 19, 2013 at 10:38 PM
....oh ...I'm definitely an E.B. resident ...have been for +20 years. And no ....I do not work for, or in any way am I related to, affiliated with, or even friends with anyone associated with the project in any capacity ...I do civil engineering / construction for a living.
Deborah Gates October 20, 2013 at 03:27 AM
John, are you a PE? Which section of East Brunswick do you live in? Thanks, Deborah
John Romano October 20, 2013 at 09:46 AM
...not a PE, just someone that's been doing engineering for +30 years.
Deborah Gates October 20, 2013 at 11:15 AM
John, where did you get your engineering degree? Is your degree in civil, mechanical, or structural engineering? Thanks, Deborah
Wwe Tensai October 20, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Divide the cost per resident by the number of residents over 30 or 50 years: not that much. Part of living in a community is that everyone's property values and quality of life eventually trickle down to your front door. When people were getting run over walking to Young Israel, the Mayor jumped to order a traffic study and put in blinky signs and put a cop there etc., he puts a traffic light outside of St. Barts - other examples but could just as easily have said, "Hey, learn to cross a street, " or "learn to make a left hand turn". In this case, having property values drop, having riff raff move in, well, its like a cancer on the town. Why should people accept that ?
kgul99 October 20, 2013 at 09:37 PM
On which date were the rigid standards created, to determine whether the Turnpike Authority should shoulder the cost to put up the barrier wall on Westons Mill Road? Has the Turnpike Authority considered taking the cost of living index and inflation rate into account before pushing part of the responsibility to The East Brunswick Township?How much more revenue is expected to increase after the completion of this project?
Wwe Tensai October 22, 2013 at 10:16 AM
There was supposed to be an open meeting between the public and the turnpike Authority on Nov. 4. It has now been postponed to Nov. 18 - conveniently after the election.

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