An application by the Chabad Jewish Center of Solon to the Ohio Department of Transportation for noise barriers for an area along the Route 422 freeway generated a debate among Solon city officials last week.
City Engineer John J. Busch explained to the City Council Public Works Committee that the Chabad center submitted last fall a Type 2 noise mitigation application for the area along the northside of U.S. 422 between Harper and Cannon roads.
ODOT performed a noise study of the area and determined that noise barriers were justified, Mr. Busch said. The study determined that the noise barrier would benefit both the Chabad and two homes on Cannon Road owned by the Chabad.
The barrier would be 14-feet tall and 794-feet long and paid for by federal and state funds. Construction would take place in 2024 and the estimated project cost is just over $278,000.
ODOT requested input from the city of Solon if the city would be supportive of the project. Mr. Busch said there would be no cost to the city for the noise barrier project and the city would not be responsible for future maintenance.
The committee eventually approved legislation supporting the project, but only after a spirited discussion. City Council added its OK Monday.
During the committee meeting, Councilman Marc R. Kotora said he has no issue with this but noted that past requests for this type of barrier in other areas along Route 422 have been denied by ODOT.
Why is this one being approved? Mr. Kotora asked.
Mr. Busch told the committee that in the past, the city has not moved forward with requests for barriers due to the cost, which can add up to $1.8 million per mile.
Also, ODOT bases its requests on dates of when homes were built for eligibility. For example, for the stretch of homes on U.S. 422 from the city’s western corporation line to Route 91, homes need built before December, 1975. The dates for homes from Route 91 to the eastern corporation line need to be built before September of 1986 to qualify.
Based on this, there would be pockets of areas the sound wall could get state approval. “It would not be funded 100 percent by ODOT so the city would pay for the balance of that funding,” Mr. Busch said. ODOT would only pick up the costs in areas that are eligible, he said, such as the area near the Chabad center.
The Chabad application is eligible for full funding because the homes were built before December of 1975. The Chabad building itself was built in 2004.
“I do not agree with any of this,” Councilman Robert Shimits said. “If this went through, we would never hear the end of it from the rest of our residents” who deal with the noise. He referenced the areas of Briar Hill and Carriage Park for example.
“Unless this is going to be done for everybody, I would not agree to do this,” Mr. Shimits said. “I know it is qualified and paid for, but those other areas should be, too.
“If we did this piecemeal, it would not be right or fair,” he said.
Councilwoman Nancy E. Meany said she too regularly fields complaints about noise from the freeway from residents in her ward.
“It is one of the biggest complaints of homeowners in my ward,” Mrs. Meany said. At Cannon Estates, she described having to scream to communicate with residents because of the traffic noise from the highway.
She was shocked over the state’s approval of the Chabad application.
But it is her understanding that it is for the safety of children who attend preschool at the Chabad and so “they are trying to do the best they can.”
Rabbi Zushe Greenberg said last week that the need for the barriers is not just about his family, who live on the Chabad property on Cannon Road, “but I’m talking about the whole community.
“We serve hundreds of kids every summer and the preschool every day,” Rabbi Greenberg said, noting that 95 percent of those families are from Solon.
“We are representing hundreds of Solon families at once,” the Rabbi said, “which is why there is a bigger need.”
Without a microphone on the playground, no one can hear, the Rabbi said.
Miriam Greenberg said the intercom to enter the temple works but it is also hard to hear. “If someone is standing outside in the cold with two babies” they often cannot hear the person at the other end,” she said.
Mrs. Greenberg said their home is right on the freeway as well. “When I sit on my porch, it’s hard to talk on the phone because of the freeway.”
The committee discussed the city submitting its own application again. Mr. Busch said part of that application would need to include signatures from residents for homes 400 feet from the freeway the whole length of Route 422.
“That would be a large project,” Mr. Busch said to obtain those signatures, “but that would be part of the application.”
Both Mr. Shimits and Mrs. Meany said they would be happy to obtain those signatures but noted that right now they cannot go knocking on doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“In good conscience, I cannot just do one of these,” Mr. Shimits said of the barrier. He also said the Chabad knew what it was doing when it built right next to the freeway.
“Let’s face it, the noise has gotten worse since they built,” Mrs. Meany said.
Mrs. Meany said she is OK with the Chabad application going forward but would like to look into a petition for other areas.
Mayor Edward H. Kraus, who chimed into the meeting remotely from his office, said he would support the community moving forward with an application. This was an issue for residents when he represented Cannon Estates as a councilman, the mayor said.
“I’ll be really upset if we put an application in and they don’t approve it but approve this one,” Mr. Shimits said.
Mrs. Meany said she looks at this as an opportunity. “This is the first time there is any positive news from ODOT” about a barrier, she said.
“If we are going to take this seriously and do it right, I support it,” Mr. Shimits said. The city must commit to filling in the gaps, and paying for it, he added.
Mayor Kraus asked if signatures could be collected electronically.
Information Technology Director Jim Gibbs said he would investigate. “I think there are a lot of challenges to consider with that, but we will look into it.”
“If they can do that for all the neighbors,” Mrs. Greenberg said of barriers, “that would be great.”