Sound Barriers on Chelsea Curves Will Provide Residents Noticeable Relief

At the top of the new barriers being placed as part of the Chelsea Curves state highway project, one can see bolts on the top that seemingly will one day hold something.

What they will hold is peace and quiet for Chelsea residents alongside the highway – a peace that hasn’t been known in that noisy part of the City for a generation.

As part of the Chelsea Curves project, sound barriers have been approved and will be installed along the edges on both sides of the highway roughly from County Road to the start of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge. Those barriers will protect residents from the dirt and grime of the highway, as well the constant drone of cars on pavement.

But it wasn’t always the case.

Councilor Roy Avellaneda said recently that when he was reviewing the plans for the Chelsea Curves – a matter he was very concerned with due to the state’s original desire to close the Fourth Street onramp – he noticed that there were no barriers.

Having previously worked at the state Department of Transportation (Mass DOT), often going out and talking about mitigation in wealthier suburban communities, he knew that sound barriers (sometimes known as a snow fence) were very much a possibility if Chelsea put together a uniform advocacy front.

“I was at one point with Mass DOT and going out and discussing mitigation with communities and saw firsthand some things they built out during large projects, particularly with sound mitigation,” he said. “When they did work or expanded the highway, the neighbors often complained about noise and Mass Highway would install very expensive sound walls. You can see them today, many of them in the suburbs and on the 128 corridor.”

However, they weren’t in the Chelsea plans. Instead, they had a chain link fence that wouldn’t have helped anyone.

“I felt the opportunity existed for them to put these up in Chelsea, but they had no intention,” he said. “I told them if they did it in Beverly and Danvers, and I had information that they did, then they could do it in Chelsea. They weren’t expecting that…I always say Chelsea is one of the communities that gets shorted when it comes to the mitigation and benefits that other communities get. This is the one time when maybe we got what we wanted. It’s a significant cost and a lot more work.”

With City Manager Tom Ambrosino also calling for the sound walls, and others in the neighborhoods and business community lending support, MassDOT relented and told Avellaneda they would include them in the project.

“Instead of chain link, they are putting an enhanced snow wall with acoustical properties – officially speaking,” said Avellaneda. “Officially it can’t be called a sound wall but because of we called for them to put them up as part of community mitigation in the February 2017 agreement, they are part of the project now.”

Avellaneda said from his experience, and from the word of the highway engineers, there will be a great difference on the ground in terms of noise.

“There will be a noticeable difference in the sound,” he said. “It actually will make a difference and at some point we should contemplate a wall along the Chelsea Street corridor between the Bridge and the curves – maybe an acoustical wall.”

He said Chelsea’s lack of amenities like a sound wall for the Curves and Bridge go back to old construction that hasn’t been updated.

“Today, that Tobin Bridge and highway would not be built the way it was,” he said. “It would never pass environmental reviews.”

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