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 some, or all, of the 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.
For more background information on noise, check out our noise FAQ.
What regulations and policies apply to traffic noise?
WSDOT’s new traffic noise policy took effect July 13, 2011, to meet the requirements of 23 CFR 772, 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. The 2011 WSDOT noise policy applies to all roadways in Washington State.
Effective dates and timing for the 2011 noise policy
- The 2011 policy supercedes the 2006 version.
- Noise studies substantially complete prior to July 13, 2011, may use either policy.
- Projects with NEPA re-evaluations triggered by 1) 3 years of no action or 2) that have scope changes with the potential to affect traffic noise impacts or the determination of abatement must update their noise studies to the 2011 requirements.
- Projects with NEPA re-evaluations triggered by other scope changes, e.g., new endangered species listing, may not need to update noise studies. The need will be determined on a by-case basis in consultation with the WSDOT Noise Program and, for federal-aid projects, the FHWA Washington Division.
Additional background on federal and state noise regulations are available in the WSDOT Environmental Procedures Manual, Chapter 446 (pdf 648 KB). Contact Tim Sexton for questions.
Have the documentation requirements for traffic noise analysis changed with the new policy?
Yes, there are new documentation requirements outlined in the Noise Report Checklist below. The same required elements are included alongside some 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.
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 74 kb) (updated September 2013) 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 Tim Sexton 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.