Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
The typical concrete sound barriers found along the sides of highways are often criticized for being ineffective and an aesthetic eyesore. In an effort to combat complaints from Ohioans who oppose such walls, the Ohio Department of Transportation will be testing out an alternative this fall – the “Green Noise Wall”. Foliage will sprout from bags – filled with dirt and seeds – positioned on the wall’s exterior, while sandbags and various organic material stacked around rocks make up the interior. Designed in the shape of a triangle, the nine-foot wide base will narrow to a peak at the wall’s 12-foot top. ODOT will build approximately 400 feet of this wall along I-70, just east of Columbus. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports that the Wisconsin DOT tried a similar project in the mid 1990s, but their 520-foot wall was overtaken by weeds after the plants died from insufficient watering, and parts of its plastic structure collapsed. ODOT will study the wall’s overall long-term usability – including general durability, required maintenance and sound-muffling capabilities – for two years and then decide on its continued use.