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DOT To Put Barriers, Trees Along I-84 / Center Street Bridge

ConnDOT will install an 8-foot protective barrier and plant trees along I-84, according to Rep. Mitch Bolinsky.

ConnDOT commissioner James Redeker, Rep. Mitch Bolinsky and First Selectman Pat Llodra listen to residents' concerns at an October meeting.
ConnDOT commissioner James Redeker, Rep. Mitch Bolinsky and First Selectman Pat Llodra listen to residents' concerns at an October meeting.
Riverside area residents who asked for barriers between Interstate 84 and their backyards will finally get their wish -- or, at least, part of it.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation says it will erect 8 feet of protective fencing along the sides of Interstate 84 to create a debris barrier, as part of the ongoing bridge rehabilitation work based around Center Street. ConnDOT will also plant a variety of evergreen trees along the slopes of the interstate, ranging from 3' to 6' in height. The trees are expected to combine with shade trees to grow into a "mature forest" between the highway and the neighborhood.

In October, residents met with Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, First Selectman Pat Llodra and ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker to air their concerns about additional barriers, which have been rejected for more than a decade, according to officials.

"We've heard the concerns of our stakeholders, and we're addressing them," said ConnDOT spokesperson Kevin Nursick. "Frankly, we can't do anything about the noise, but we can shield residents from the visual elements of the interstate."

Initial reports from Bolinsky's office indicated the barriers would mitigate noise issues. Nursick said they may act as a "placebo," but would not fulfill the same function as a true noise barrier.

"Only federally funded projects can install sound walls," said Nursick. "There's no state money available and very little funding opportunities. But this is a step in the right direction."

Bolinsky said it was that meeting that spurred action.

"Their stories are very compelling and they were well prepared to help the commissioner understand that this is more than a noise problem, it also is a dangerous place, in its current condition," Bolinsky said. "Occasionally, we have debris flying off the right-of-way in a place where school children are waiting for busses."

Residents have even fallen victim to some criminal activity, including trespassing, due to the proximity to the interstate, Bolinsky said.

"This site visit by Commissioner Redeker finally jumpstarted the DOT into beginning the process of taking some action," he said.

Interstate 84 runs parallel to Riverside Road and Underhill Road in Sandy Hook, with two overpasses at Center Street and Alpine Drive.

"The installation of a fence and trees are a good temporary resolution to noise and safety abatement issues for Newtown's Riverside section.  Of course, we wanted more and, ultimately, we'll continue to follow-up for barrier walls in the area.  I understand the state's position that, at this time, they do not have the funds for the construction of fixed sound barriers but I do plan to keep this need before ConnDOT and hope our request will get priority reconsideration during better financial times."

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