by: Torie Wells Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mike Restaino lives in the shadow of Interstate 277, a stretch of road that will soon expand.
Next week he and about 65 of his neighbors in Fourth Ward will receive a ballot in the mail from the state, asking if they want a sound wall in their backyard.
The sound wall proposals are part of the larger Interstate 77 and I-277 expansion plan. NCDOT has offered sound walls near some neighborhoods to help cut down on added noise from added traffic. Some neighborhoods have already voted yes.
Now some neighbors near Fourth Ward that the state has determined would be most affected, have to decide if they want walls.
Restaino and others that Eyewitness News spoke with are concerned about added noise and protection from more traffic.
"It's a safety thing," said Lacey Simpkins, a resident.
But Restaino said he isn't sure the sound walls as they are proposed now are the answer. He is concerned about property values and the view, not just for him but for everyone in the area.
"We've got 60 people making a decision that's going to impact the entire city," said Restaino, president of Friends of the Fourth Ward.
Center City Partners told Eyewitness News it has been following this project and working with the state, city and neighbors.
"Right now we're working with the city and NCDOT on a better design. That's really been our goal all along, just understanding what they (walls) will look like and coming up with as good of a design as we can," said Allison Billings, vice president for Neighborhood Development, Transportation & Sustainability for Center City Partners.
Billings said Center City Partners, and some of the residents it has been working with, hoped to have an alternative plan hammered out before this vote.
"This was not our desired outcome. Our desired outcome was to have a better designed solution for people to vote on," she said.
"Time is really of the essence," said Jen Thompson, spokesperson for NCDOT.
NCDOT told Eyewitness News it is on a tight schedule for this project. Its goal is to open the expansion to traffic in 2017.
The state said it is not trying to minimize residents’ concerns or questions and it does still plan to work with the city and neighbors on a design if a wall is passed.
"We're trying to figure out a design alternative that would still meet the requirements to lower that sound and also to hopefully still maintain that aesthetic appeal that everyone likes," said Thompson.
Restaino said he feels he needs more information. He would like more time. He said right now, he still doesn't know how he'll vote.
He also told Eyewitness News that some of the neighbors want to know if alternatives would work.
They want to know if lowering the speed limit could decrease noise as well, without a need for a wall. And some wonder if sound canceling pavement could be an option. We took those suggestions to NCDOT.
The state told us the goal of the expansion is to move traffic through the area more quickly, so lowering the speed limit likely wouldn't work. It also said that it's not sure about the pavement yet.
Once the design is further along, the state will have a better idea if that type of pavement would work with the plan.
NCDOT said that if Fourth Ward neighbors vote down the wall, they will not get one. But the expansion project will not be impacted and other neighborhoods that voted yes on their walls will get those.
We're told that if neighbors don't vote at all, they will be counted as a yes vote.
Billings told Eyewitness News that at the end of the day, she thinks a better solution will be found. She thinks all parties are committed to that.
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