Green Tree residents seek relief from noise of Parkway West traffic

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It turns out there's a little more at stake in the state transportation funding debate than better roads, bridges and mass transit.

For a group of Green Tree residents who live near the Parkway West, there's also the prospect of some long-sought peace and quiet.

About 70 residents attended a community meeting last week to urge the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to erect a noise-reduction wall along the parkway. In the past, the answer has been "no" -- PennDOT generally only builds them along new or expanded highways.

But with the department hoping to make safety and capacity improvements along the parkway in coming years, the answer has changed. PennDOT will consider putting in a sound wall if its plan to improve the parkway is funded, said Dan Cessna, district executive.

That will only happen if the Legislature approves a transportation bill at or near the levels in Senate Bill 1, which passed the Senate 45-5 in June but has stalled in the House. "We have no funding to build those projects unless Senate Bill 1 passes," Mr. Cessna said.

The department's Decade of Investment report, outlining what would be built under various funding scenarios, allocates $85 million for interchange improvements at Carnegie and Green Tree if the Senate version passes. That would include lengthening the inbound on-ramp at Carnegie to connect it to the three-lane parkway section on Green Tree Hill and extending the outbound third lane beyond the Green Tree interchange.

Cost projections for the work include about $7 million to $9 million for a sound wall on the inbound side of the parkway from Carnegie to Green Tree, Mr. Cessna said, emphasizing that the numbers are preliminary.

If the project advances, PennDOT will do a noise-level study to determine if the wall is warranted. "We surmise based on our experience that that area would be a candidate," he said.

That was music to the rattled ears of residents and community leaders.

"They've suffered for 35 or 40 years. Finally, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel," said Ron Panza, a Green Tree councilman who organized a committee to push for the sound wall to shield homes in the area of Parkedge Road. The community was built long before the parkway attained its ranking as one of the nation's most congested highways.

A review of property records for the street showed that nearly half of the homeowners have lived there for 20 years or more, including several who moved there in the 1950s and 1960s.

Marlene Delligatti said she and her husband built their house 49 years ago and have watched parkway conditions "gradually get worse and worse. We've had a pretty rough time."

Because of the grade on the parkway, many tractor-trailers use engine-braking systems called jake brakes that emit jarring bursts of noise.

"It's all night long. We hear noise, crashes, sirens," Ms. Delligatti said. "We have had people at meetings saying that their school-age children cannot sleep at night. If these children can't sleep, how are they going to do in school?"

Having fought for a sound wall for more than a decade, she took last week's development in stride.

"We're still in limbo. They haven't started to scratch the surface yet. I have a glimmer of hope," she said.

Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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