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Noise

This page describes how WSDOT determine traffic noise impacts to homes, parks, daycare centers and other sensitive noise receptors and evaluates noise abatement for these sensitive receivers.  WSDOT is required to follow the FHWA federal regulation 23 CFR 772 in conducting our noise analysis. 

Additional background on federal and state noise regulations and policy guidance are available in the WSDOT Environmental Manual, Chapter 446 and our Noise FAQ web page.

How does WSDOT address transportation noise?

We ensure compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations on noise from traffic and construction.

  • Type 1 projects build new roadways, add lanes or significantly re-align existing roadways, or change nearby topography to create a new line-of-sight to the highway from a noise sensitive location. We evaluate Type 1 projects for traffic noise impacts and determine whether areas qualify for traffic noise abatement; usually noise walls.
  • Type 2 projects, or "noise retrofit" walls, are constructed for neighborhoods built prior to May 14, 1976, before traffic noise was evaluated on projects. We manage the list of eligible projects and help prioritize them based on cost-effectiveness. Projects are selected and funded by the legislature.
  • We obtain noise variances from local jurisdictions that allow night time construction work when traffic or safety issues prevent work from occurring during the day.
  • Monitor underwater noise from pile driving . The BA Noise Assessment Guidance and the Underwater Noise Monitoring Plan template   (doc 319 kb) and Cover Letter   (doc 22 kb) have additional information.
  • Support research on innovative noise reduction techniques such as quieter pavement , rumble strips designs, pile driving noise abatement and others.

What regulations and policies apply to traffic noise?

WSDOT’s traffic noise policy complies with 23 CFR 772 (2011), the federal rule that describes how traffic noise and noise abatement must be addressed on federal aid highway projects. The rule requires state DOTs to develop a state noise policy that is approved by FHWA and applies to all roadways in Washington State.

What are the documentation requirements for traffic noise analysis?

WSDOT documentation requirements are outlined in the Noise Report Checklist below.  The same required elements are included alongside sample text in the Noise Report Template.  Be sure to check here for the most recent versions of both documents prior to submitting reports to WSDOT.

WSDOT has also developed specific traffic noise modeling guidance that must be followed for projects that are required to comply with WSDOT noise policy.    


Who can prepare noise studies?

As a reminder, since 2006, all lead analysts submitting noise studies must have completed the National Highway Institute (NHI) Highway Traffic Noise course, or equivalent as determined by WSDOT. 

We have prepared a  Qualified List    (pdf 24 kb) (updated July 2016 ) that includes the names and contact information of consultants and WSDOT staff that have met this requirement.  If you have taken the course, but are not listed, please email  Jim Laughlin with a copy of the Certificate of Training from NHI to verify qualifications.

What information is needed to perform a noise study or obtain a noise variance?

If your project requires a noise study or requires nighttime work, please complete a Task Request Form (doc 260 kb) and submit to Jim Laughlin . The task request form outlines the data need to perform these tasks.

What about transit and rail noise?

Similar to road projects, rail and transit projects are also evaluated for noise impacts. The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Rail Administration have their own guidelines for noise evaluations where they are the lead or co-lead agency.

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