NEWBURYPORT — Dissatisfied with MassDOT’s decision not to build new and improved noise barriers along Interstate 95 near Laurel Road and Ferry Road, area lawmakers announced yesterday they will be lobbying the state to reverse its decision.
Newburyport state Rep. Michael Costello and state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives said there was plenty of time to convince highway officials of the need to abandon the state’s plans to move the existing barriers about 20 feet closer to residential homes. Both Costello and O’Connor Ives are expected to discuss their strategies to affected residents during a meeting with MassDOT resident engineer Ernie Monroe on Monday at 5 p.m. inside City Hall. Also expected to attend are Mayor Donna Holaday and mayoral candidate Greg Earls.
In recent weeks, the state has cleared numerous trees, shrubs and overgrowth as part of the roughly $300 million project to replace the aging Whittier Memorial Bridge and rehabilitate eight additional bridges to accommodate the widening of Interstate 95 in Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury. The biggest component of the project will involve demolishing the 58-year-old, six-lane span connecting Amesbury and Newburyport over the Merrimack River and replacing it with an eight-lane bridge with four lanes on each side.
In order to widen the highway, MassDOT is pushing a 40-year-old concrete sound barrier closer to several Laurel Road and Ferry Road homes, much to the displeasure of homeowners who have been lobbying for a new, taller wall.
Costello said the most recent timetable doesn’t see the sound barrier moved and replanted for several months, if not longer. That gives him and O’Connor Ives time to work behind the scenes to convince MassDOT to change course and build a better barrier.
“We’re going to push very hard,” Costello said yesterday.
During a public hearing held last year, a MassDOT official said the agency followed a cost-effectiveness plan that took into account the number of people affected and set a limit for how much should be spent per affected household. The DOT contended that not enough people live in the Laurel Road neighborhood to make protecting them a cost-effective plan.