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Traffic Noise Studies
Early in the planning stages of most highway projects, highway agencies do a traffic noise study. The purpose of the study is to determine if the proposed highway will create any traffic noise problems. The first step in the noise study is to determine what the existing noise levels are along the proposed highway corridor. This is done in one of two ways.

Some noise measurements are conducted using integrating SLM's. These are usually done at locations where the background noise is a combination of noises from many sources or the location is remote from any major highway. These are commonly called ambient noise measurements.

On the other if the existing noise level at a particular location is largely the result of highway traffic noise, then FHWA highway traffic noise prediction models may be used to calculate the existing noise level. In the next step, the traffic noise prediction model calculates what the noise levels would be for various noise-sensitive receptors if the highway was constructed. However, before the model can calculate the noise levels, a lot of information (data) has to be entered into the model. Data involving traffic volumes, speeds and types of vehicles, highway alignment geometry, including roadway elevations, topography between the highway and noise receptors and more, must be entered into the noise model. This is done for each and every proposed alternative in a highway project. Then, the noise level results calculated by the model are compared to both the Federal noise criteria (Noise Abatement Criteria, NAC) and the State noise criteria (WV Substantial Increase Criteria.) If the predicted noise levels exceed either of these criteria, the highway agency must consider measures that could be used to lessen these excessive noise levels. There are several abatement measures that a highway agency can do to lessen the impacts of highway traffic noise. A good reference document that provides a basic understanding to highway traffic noise is the FHWA report, "Highway Traffic Noise."

For more detailed information on the policies and guidelines used in the analysis and abatement of highway traffic noise, refer to the document, "Highway Traffic Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy and Guidance."

The Appalachian Corridor H Noise Study
Thirty-five separate ambient noise measurements were conducted along the Appalachian Corridor H Project in West Virginia. The noise levels were measured at different locations such as residences, schools, churches, businesses, industrial sites and even at the Lost River Park and the Monongehela National Forest. These measurements were used in the traffic noise study to help determine the existing noise levels along the Corridor H route.

FHWA highway traffic noise prediction models were used to model over 2,400 different locations to account for noise-sensitive receptors that could potentially be affected by traffic noise from the highway project. The study included modeling noise levels in areas where this type of analysis had never been conducted before. Several natural resource areas such as Greenland Gap, Otter Creek Wilderness, Big Run Bog, Hanging Rock, Blackwater Falls State Park and the Monongehela National Forest were included in the traffic noise modeling analysis. In addition to these locations, the Corridor H traffic noise study also analyzed predictive noise levels for some important historic resource areas. The Corricks Ford Battlefield District, Moorefield Battlefield and Old Field Historic District as well as the Middle South Branch Valley Rural Historic District were all examined in the traffic noise study.

For the Build Alternative on the Appalachian Corridor H Project there were sixty predicted Federal noise criteria (NAC) exceedances and eighty-four predicted exceedances of the WV Substantial Increase Criteria. At locations where exceedances of either the Federal or West Virginia noise criteria were predicted, noise reduction measures were examined in order to lessen the noise impacts to more acceptable levels. There are many noise reduction measures possible, although they all have limitations. Some measures considered in the Corridor H traffic noise study were earth berms, noise walls and existing vegetation.
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