Dec 2, 2012

Noise Barrier Modfied

As I wrote a short time back, the commercial interests of Gopher Electronic's owner appears to have some over-riding influence on the barrier construction. The current design, as of November 27, per Jennie Read, PE, North Area Engineer - Ramsey County, ( is described in the figure below:

I have, as usual, a couple of concerns. It makes sense to begin to taper the wall down as it approaches Little Canada Road. A visual obstruction for vehicles from the west turning south onto the I35E entrance would be a safety hazard. However, terminating the wall at the current location ignores the health and quiet of our neighbors on Australian Avenue. The two issues that will cause their noise levels to be untouched (regardless of the oddly derived MNDOT estimates) are the gap left between the noise source (I35E) and the reflection caused by the earlier east side noise wall. The photo below illustrates that the east wall is nicely lined up to reflect noise from that side of the freeway into the neighborhood directly across the intersection.

Simply extending the wall to match the new east side barrier is not enough to correct the damage done by the original (and poorly considered) noise barrier design. While it might be inconvenient for the business owners to have to install higher signage to be visible to the tiny fraction of drivers who will be looking for signs while negotiating a hazardous section of freeway, the cost to the homeowners should come first for both MNDOT and the City of Little Canada's local government.

Having seen the original noise level estimates made by MNDOT which were used to justify why noise barriers were not recommended when the freeway was expanded, I'm unimpressed by the random numbers their "engineers" have applied to expectations of noise reductions in the neighborhoods. The closer the properties are to the noise barrier, the more effective the barrier will be. Even MNDOT "experts" should know this fact.

Honestly, the more I see these characters abuse science, the more I am convinced of Thomas Huxley's condemnation of the three classes of witnesses, "liars, damned liars, and experts." At least with these new estimates in hand, I will have data to work with in collecting measurements over the next few seasons before the wall is constructed. After the wall is built, it will be interesting to hear the MNDOT excuses for why their numbers, again, failed to approach reality. Before the previous I35E expansion and noise wall construction, the MNDOT optimistic guesses regarding the effects on our property defied logic and science and were, as expected, wrong. Instead of "less than 3dB" of change in the abusive noise levels on our properties, the new traffic expansion increased levels by 5-9dBA and 8-14dBC.

The Little Canada residents living along the south end of the existing west side wall (1o-3o on the MNDOT map above) have voted against the extension of the wall. I suspect it is because they are receiving as much benefit from the existing trees as they expect from a new wall. Due to medical issues, I was not able to attend the November 28 City Council meeting where they expressed their opinions. However, it will be critical for the city and residents to carefully monitor any MNDOT "enhancements" to the existing tree protection, if that becomes part of the plan. When MNDOT planted 4' trees on the west side (near the 1n location on the MNDOT map above), the state's employees cut down several existing 20' trees to "make room" for the new starter plants. Obviously, that was counter-productive and should not be repeated.

Nov 19, 2012

Good Neighbor Award

Our neighbors, John and Sue Bibeau, recently sold their home (2666 Lake Shore) and moved to Brainerd. John and Sue have been some of the best neighbors and friends we've had in our lives. Not only will they be missed because of their kind and generous natures, but their contribution to the neighborhood has been immense.

John has lived in Little Canada and on Lake Shore for most of his life. He has seen the neighborhood in good times and bad. John and Sue were always involved in community events and a great source of insight into the city's history.

For the two years that Little Canada paid for our lake's lily spraying permits, John volunteered his time and energy to man the pumps for two days each year. Because of that, our lake has had a chance to make a come-back and it has been possible to enjoy boating on that precious resource and the view from our back yards was dramatically improved with a little water visible on the lake. "Fixing" the lake is a long way in the future, but that wasn't a bad start.

John was always quick to lend a hand at any project that might improve the neighborhood. We particularly appreciated his willingness to help with the "project" that our home turned out to be. Without their patience and assistance, I suspect we might not have managed to turn our place around and make it livable. We will miss John and Sue a lot and will try to welcome our new neighbors as generously as John and Sue did for us.

Nov 5, 2012

Variations on the Noise Wall

Apparently, the Little Canada City Council is doing an end run around the will of the property owners on Australia Avenue. The owner of Gopher Electronics convinced the council that his property will somehow be damaged if there isn't a line-of-sight from the freeway to his building and that his tiny building provides ample noise protection for the people who live on the streets "blocked" by his building. So, the council is looking at (or has already decided on) shrinking the length of the northwest side of the proposed noise wall for his benefit.

Obviously, this completely eliminates the value of the noise wall for 2/3 of the residents on the west side of the freeway. As the DOT's own literature states, effective noise barriers must:
  • must be tall and long with no openings;
  • are most effective within 61 meters (200 feet) of a highway (usually the first row of homes);
  • a barrier should be at least eight times as long as the distance from the home or receiver to the barrier;
There was no indication of this conversation in the currently posted 10/24/2012 meeting notes, but a resident who attended that meeting said there was quite a bit of off-line discussion about the "variation."
 Reducing the length of the barrier will effect the efficiency of the barrier for far more than just the citizens "protected" by the Gopher building. It will eliminate much of the barrier's effect for most of us on the west side.Since Gopher Electronics has been accused of being the cause of a lot of the lake's degradation over the years, it is hard to see why the city would be suddenly concerned about that business' input regarding the neighborhood.

There is still some time for public input before this project is turned over to the bureaucracy. "The Administrator reported that MN DOT is requesting that the City hold a public hearing on the MN PASS project, and staff is recommending the hearing be held on Wednesday, November 28th at 7:30 p.m. The Administrator pointed out that last evening MN DOT held an open house on the project at City Hall. The issue of sound walls was discussed with residents, and there are some areas abutting the project where property owners favor additional sound walls and some not. The Administrator noted that the Heather Oaks property owners abutting the project do not support the addition of a sound wall, but would like to have additional landscaping installed." Stay tuned, this "discussion" isn't over yet.

The fact that none of the council members or the mayor are opposed in the upcoming election is probably bad news for the city. It says we're either completely satisfied with city government, we're completely apathetic about our homes and community, or we're afraid to raise out heads up because they might get shot off.

Oct 14, 2012

I-35E MnPASS Noise Wall

This is a copy of the letter I sent regarding the noise wall plan and the meeting the city will be having regarding this proposal on October 23 at the Little Canada City Center:

From:     T.W. Day []
Sent:    Sunday, October 14, 2012 12:39 PM
To:    ''
Subject:    Little Canada I-35E MnPass Noise Wall

I am a property owner on the west side of Savage Lake, directly across from I35E and north of where the noise barrier on the east side ends.

Thomas Day
2660 Lakeshore Avenue
Little Canada, MN 55117-1320

I want the noise barrier.

The noise barrier will, as I suspect the state knows, will be of limited value in regard to the unhealthy noise levels the freeway expansion has created for our property. When the freeway was expanded and the barrier installed on the east side of the freeway, the noise level in our backyard and inside our home rose significantly (approximately 5-10dB, depending on the time of year and day). The state's "acoustician" made some wild and unsubstantiated claims that we would not see more than 3dB of noise increase after the freeway redesign and none of those assumptions made much sense, even based on the information that you'd hope anyone involved in freeway design would have available (

I have measured the noise level in my backyard at various times of the day, week, year, and since we moved here in 1997 and found that the noise levels have regularly exceeded OSHA safety guidelines for industrial work spaces. Before the freeway expansion and construction of the east side noise wall, my spring measurements (typically worst case in my measurements) were around 80dBA and 86dB unweighted. After the freeway expansion those measurements increased to 87dBA and 93dB unweighted. Doing an extended noise study during those worst case periods found peaks of 98dBA from the middle of our back yard.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the general noise from the freeway was more-or-less unfocused before the east side noise barrier. After that barrier was constructed, the noise levels clearly increased as vehicles approach and pass that reflection source. The fact that noise generators can easily be localized when the are near the barrier proves that the reflection from the east side barrier has increased the noise level on our property. Something the previous "engineer" claimed would not happen and something that any competent acoustician would expect to be a problem.

For people who live within the first 100 feet of the barrier, I would expect a dramatic improvement in noise levels after the proposed barrier is constructed. For those of us who live considerably further from the freeway, I doubt that we'll see significant improvement. An improvement on this plan would be to add absorption to the barrier design. The easiest and cheapest way to do that would be to include a budget for enough evergreen trees to provide year-around full coverage of the noise-generating area. That was part of an earlier noise abatement plan and should be included in this plan. Even if the trees do not provide much effect early on, the larger they grow the more effective they will become and they will not require maintenance if they are planted on the lake-side of the barrier. This can only be good visually and sonically for the embattled residents around our lake.

May 17, 2012

Noise Pollution and Our Ineffective Alarm System

Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:05 PM
To: ''
Subject: Just noise pollution?


You probably can't do anything about this, but if anyone in the city has a voice in this stuff I hoped it might be you. I saw a news program the other day that talked about the fact that our emergency warning systems have been found ineffective. This is everywhere, not just Little Canada. People don't pay attention to the alarms and if we ever have a real natural catestrophe that will be a big reason why more lives will be lost than necessary.

In Little Canada, the alarm system appears to be completely abused by the city. For some idiotic reason, it wails at noon and 6PM everyday just to contribute something to the town's already excessive noise pollution. We all have clocks, cell phones, watches, and radio/televisions so I'm pretty sure we can figure out when to eat lunch and dinner without an alarm to "warn" us of the time. The alarm fires off when the volunteer fire department is notified of some emergency, although I imagine those volunteers all have cell phones and get the same message via phone and the rest of us have no need to hear about the alarm unless it's our house burning.

That leaves the only time the alarm ought to be sounding as a rarity; severe storm and tornado warnings. With the multitude of useless "warnings" going off on regular and spasmodic intervals, I suspect that fewer than 5% of the city's residents know or care about the difference in siren patterns and tones and most of us probably ignore it all as we try to ignore the constant drone of the freeway and the usual Harley noise-making crowd who parade through our streets announcing their presence. I would not be surprised if the city could hold some liability for trivializing the alarm system if it is ignored at the cost of lives when a real emergency exists. At a minimum, it would be proper for the city to review current obsolute policy regarding the regular sounding of this silly system. At best, the whole system should be updated and the city should make a concerted effort to inform the residents when the damn thing is not to be ignored.

Tom Day

Apr 8, 2012

Getting Ready for This Century

A lot of the effort made by government, local and state and federal, from the last 25 years has been wasted money. We're at the end of cheap and easy oil and the beginning of a new era of higher cost energy and high efficiency. Much of our city's "traffic control" was designed by people who can't count, don't use critical thinking effectively, and are bound by old habits and foolish strategies. The whole freeway widening move from a few years back was wasted money and poorly considered. The traffic on 35E is going to drop as gas prices pass $4, then $5, and until fuel prices shoot past the reach of almost everyone currently commuting in a single passenger vehicle (probably 95% of current traffic).

Even in our neighborhood, many of the traffic control devices are half-baked and irrational. The stop sign at Jackson and Lake Street (A) or the sign at Demont and Canabury (B) make no sense at all. The first should be a pedestrian crossing warning and there should be a similar warning at Rose Place and Jackson (C) and another at the crosswalk on Demont and Jackson (D).

The stop lights at the 35E and Little Canada Road exit should be operational only at rush hour and turned to flashing reds at all other times. We had a demonstration of how effectively this works last winter when the lights failed multiple times in November and December and traffic was dramatically improved at those intersections when drivers just used common sense. The fantasy that government traffic controllers can more effectively control traffic than can drivers is delusional, at best, and arrogant on the average.

We're going to have to start thinking seriously about energy conservation, sooner or later. If we do it later, we'll be struggling to survive as a city and a culture. If we do it now, we might get through this together.

Mar 9, 2012

Safety Issue

This is off of the subject of our depleted lake resource, but every time I walk this route I'm reminded of how dangerous a neighborhood can become. At the intersection of Jackson and Demont (See figure at right, marker "A"), there is a pedestrian crosswalk. In the 15 years I have lived in this neighborhood I have yet to see a single vehicle stop for pedestrians in that intersections. I have, however, seen cell-phone impaired drivers tear through the intersection while students from the high school try to cross that street even to the point of seeing one zombie in a club-cab pickup nearly wipe out a girls' running team. Sadly, even the Ramsey County Sheriff's department deputies don't appear to recognize the pedestrian right-of-way. Sooner or later, someone is going to get killed at that intersection and we should all do whatever we can to prevent that tragedy.

Between notifying the sheriff's department (651/248-2449 or and the Metropolitan Council ( and 651/602-1721) we ought to be able to get some attention paid to this intersection.