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Walls go up, I-275 noise to go down

Sound barrier walls are being constructed at the northbound Gandy Boulevard  exit on 275 in St. Petersburg. The construction is part of the Gateway Expressway expansion project. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Sound barrier walls are being constructed at the northbound Gandy Boulevard exit on 275 in St. Petersburg. The construction is part of the Gateway Expressway expansion project. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Apr. 12, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Three sets of noise barrier walls are being built along Interstate 275, two at the north and southbound Roosevelt Boulevard exits and one at the northbound Gandy Boulevard exit.

The walls are part of the $580 million Gateway Expressway project, which includes widening I-275 to add a toll lane in either direction from south of Gandy Boulevard to Fourth Street N. The project will also create two new four-lane elevated toll roads that will connect U.S. 19 and I-275 and the Bayside Bridge and I-275.

RELATED:Ahead for Pinellas: Two elevated toll roads in the Gateway area by 2022

John McShaffrey, Community Outreach Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, said any time a highway is widened, the agency goes through Federal Highway Administration guidelines to determine how much noise will be created by the expansion, how many residents will be affected and whether a cost effective wall can be built that is feasible — defined by the federal agency as "a noise reduction of at least 5 decibels," and reasonable.

In this case, McShaffrey said, the wall is expected to reduce sound levels between 5 and 7 decibels, he said, and 194 individual residences will be impacted.

Melissa Zarn, 34, has lived in the Crescent Lane apartment complex tucked behind the Gandy exit off Interstate 275 for a year and a half.

Noise from the highway has never bothered her much, she said.

"It's not too much of an issue for me," she said. "I think I hear my neighbors more."

Zarn said she hadn't heard much about what the walls were for, or the expansion project, so didn't know how much it would help.

Ashley Lacombe, a leasing agent at Azure apartments which has units that face I-275 near the Roosevelt Boulevard exit, said the complex has been able to use the wall as a selling point to satisfy occupancy in the units closest to the highway.

"Residents are okay with it," she said. "Right now we have some issues with the noise of the wall going up, but (residents) know it's a benefit for us, so they deal with it."

The walls, which will stand at 22 feet tall and range from 1,280 feet to 1,925 feet long, will cost about $3.4 million, McShaffrey said. Construction is expected to be complete by June.

Contact Divya Kumar at dkumar@tampabay.com or . Follow @divyadivyadivya.

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