Wellesley residents sound off on Route 128 noise
When Robert Soderholm moved to his home on Duxbury Road in Wellesley, the close proximity to Route 128 didn’t bother him.
But 17 years later, the noise, pollution, and vibration from the congested highway is taking its toll.
Soderholm said his neighbors have been waiting over a decade for the state to install a promised sound barrier along the highway, where rush hour is seemingly endless. Despite the state’s contention that the quarter-mile, 18-foot-tall barrier will be built within the next two years, many residents have lost patience.
“They keep pushing our project down the road,’’ Soderholm said. “I’ve heard every excuse as to why it’s going to be next year and it never happens.’’
Now the state says construction of the sound barrier is back on the table and is set to be completed as part of the massive Route 128/Interstate 95 add-a-lane project. The project, which is in its final phase, has added a travel lane and shoulder toward the median on I-95 from Route 24 in Randolph to Route 9 in Wellesley.
The final phase covers a 3.8-mile stretch from just north of the Needham branch railroad bridge in Needham to about 5,000 feet north of Route 9 in Wellesley, said the state Department of Transportation. In addition to the new lane, it includes a new interchange at Kendrick Street and two collector-distributor roads connecting Kendrick Street and Highland Avenue; upgrades to the interchanges at Highland Avenue and Route 9; four new bridges; and seven new noise barriers.
Wellesley residents say the sound barrier near the Route 9 exit was put on a statewide priority list more than 10 years ago.
The proposed barrier would go on the southbound side of Route 128 to block the highway from Barton Road, Duxbury Road, Harris Avenue, Maple Road, Lantern Lane, and Minuteman Lane. There are nearly 90 two-and-three-bedroom apartments at a Wellesley Housing Authority complex on Barton Road and about 50 single-family homes — some of which are located within a stone’s throw of the highway.
As the years passed, several other barriers on the priority list were completed and scratched off.
Residents said they were told in 2009 that the Wellesley barrier was up next and ready for design. Neighbors gathered with state officials, and approved the type and appearance of the barrier, which was to be completed by 2013. But the funding never came through, they said.
“They came down and marked everything out and said it was going to get done,’’ said Steve Tosti, who has lived on Harris Avenue for 52 years. “I’ve been hearing about it for the last how many years?’’
Tosti said he’s gotten used to the noise over the years but would love a sound barrier for more privacy. “There are people who just think they can dump stuff over the guardrails — grills, couches, you name it.’’
The fourth lane was added to the Wellesley stretch of the highway more than a year ago and residents are perplexed as to why the barrier didn’t go in then. Not only do they have to deal with the regular noise of the highway but they’ve put up with the ongoing construction as well.
State officials say the Wellesley sound barrier is set to be done by the end of 2017, but that timeline isn’t good enough for those advocating for the project.
“There is no question it’s been going too slowly for everyone’s liking,’’ said state Representative Alice Peisch, who represents Wellesley. Residents were led to believe that the barrier would be done at the beginning, not end of this phase, she said.
“It’s there and will be done but I’m very frustrated it will be done at the end of the project,’’ she said. “The initial representations were that it would be done at the front end.’’
A spokeswoman for the state DOT said construction on the sound barrier is dictated by the contractor’s work schedule.
“We understand that since installation has begun on noise barriers in other sections of the project that residents in other areas are eager to have the noise barriers of interest to them constructed as well,’’ said Amanda Skahan in an email. “Realistically the noise barriers in the Wellesley area will not be installed until 2017.’’
She said the contractor is replacing the bridge over Route 9 moving from east to west, and the noise barrier coincides with the work zone on the west side of Route 9.
Peisch said she’s confident that it will get done eventually, but she doesn’t blame residents for losing faith. Peisch said she will continue to push to have it done sooner rather than later.
“It’s not comforting to the people who live there and have been hearing for 20-plus years that a sound barrier is needed,’’ Peisch said. “But this is the first time there has been any commitment to fund it.’’
Soderholm said he’ll believe it when he sees it. He said the entire process has been discouraging for residents who have watched other barriers not on the state priority list go up before the one in Wellesley.
“They were building sound barriers where there was no apparent need,’’ he said. “Meanwhile, the neighborhood most impacted isn’t getting one until 2017. We’ve seen so many state projects run out of money at the end. No matter how pressing the need, they keep pushing it off and then the excuse will be, oops, we’re out of money.’’