Legislative Audit Supports UDOT Noise Barrier Policies

Feb 8, 2019

Credit Jeremy Ranch I-80 Noise Wall

The results of the Utah Legislative Auditor Generals office have found the Utah Department of Transportation process of funding and constructing a controversial noise barrier along I-80 near Jeremy Ranch, did not violate it’s internal, state and federal policies. Carolyn Murray has this:

The Citizens Against the Wall, known as CATW requested the auditor look at three violations of UDOT policies. CATW representative, Tom Farkas felt his group made correct allegations that UDOT was in violation of their internal policies by building a combination berm-wall. He said UDOT policies only account for a wall structure to mitigate noise. Auditors said it was not a violation but recommended that the agency add the berm option to their noise abatement policies.

CATW claimed UDOT didn’t do the correct cost calculations because they did not include the cost of the berm portion of the noise barrier.

The audit found UDOT doesn’t have to account for the cost of the berm if it’s not part of their cost criteria. However, the audit now requires that for future projects, UDOT must include all the costs that go into a noise barrier project.

“Because they had totally ignored the cost of the berm itself. Again, if they didn’t meet the cost criteria, in our mind, that would be a violation. The auditors said, however, that since there was no provision for a berm wall in the policy, that it was justified that they didn’t include the cost of the berm.”

The third area CATW challenged was UDOT’s definitions of mixed land uses and combining costs to justify the construction expense of the noise barrier.

“There is no language for mixed land uses or combined cost criteria in UDOT noise policy or in federal guidelines. Then, instead of acknowledging that they didn’t meet their cost criteria, they just moved on and came up with another proposal for the berm/wall which we already discussed, wasn’t in their policy. They claim that the berm/wall met that cost criteria but again, since they neglected to include the cost of the berm, when that is added in, they did not meet that cost criteria."

Farkas said officials told his group that if they did not like what they were doing, they should sue UDOT. He said the audit did not respond to CATW’s request to establish an adjudication board where UDOT would address citizens issues with out litigation.

“The take-away is, that no matter what else we could have done-and I thought of other things that were maybe missed opportunities here and there-but we’re really up against a state agency that basically can do whatever they want. You know, I have an engineering background. I looked at the numbers. They were pretty clear to me. And, I thought, if I presented this to UDOT, it would be logical that they would say, yeah, maybe there is something going on here.

Farkas said UDOT issued a construction contract for the noise wall in June of 2017 and that they were going to build the wall regardless of public input.