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REDUCING THE NOISE

DALLAS - Two miles west of the Dallas skyline, it's often tough to tell Kessler Park is so urban.

"It's very peaceful and calming," said resident Sara Reidy.

The water features in her lushly landscaped backyard aren't only nice, they are also a necessity.

"Being in an urban environment you expect certain noise," she said. "But when I bought here 14 years ago it wasn't like this, and when they expanded Interstate 30 it's just gotten progressively worse."

TxDOT said more than 100,000 cars and trucks a day roar back and forth along I-30 now. Frustrated with the freeway, Reidy put TxDOT to the test.

"We're lucky to live in a neighborhood where people love to get involved and she did just that," said Ron Veech, president of Kessler Neighbors United.

TxDOT's own study said the acceptable level of freeway noise in a residential area is 67 decibels. So, Reidy bought a $49 sound level meter from Radio Shack and took her own measurements through the trees every day during morning rush hour.

After a week, she discovered I-30 is louder than TxDOT reported. The average was 76 decibels, nine points more than it's supposed to be.

"And sometimes it registered higher than 80," Reidy said.

The solution was closer than she realized. TxDOT's already testing a so-called noise-reducing asphalt nearby, known in the transportation industry as "Permeable Friction Course."

So, Reidy and the neighborhood took their concerns to Rep. Rafael Anchia. When he presented it to TxDOT, the agency agreed to extend the test area of its noise reducing asphalt right through Kessler Park.

"If it can be a potential alternative to sound walls it would be huge because sound walls are very expensive," said Cynthia White, a TxDOT spokeswoman.

TxDOT started using PFC in 2000 in a few areas in Austin, San Antonio and Wichita Falls, but this is the first project in Dallas. PFC is common in Georgia and in Europe.

Besides offering a quieter ride, this type of mixed asphalt is more porous and absorbs additional rain water, reducing the risk of hydroplaning.

A TxDOT study between 2001 and 2003 in San Antonio revealed a dramatic reduction in accidents during the rain. Thirty-nine happened on the old roadway, and only 19 happened on the new PFC covered roadway.

In addition, the asphalt cuts down on splash and spray from passing vehicles in the rain.

But the transportation department isn't making any guarantees on the reduction of noise.

Next January, at a cost of $560,000, TxDOT will extend the so-called quieter asphalt for another mile west on I-30.

Reidy and her neighbors can't wait to hear the difference.

The state plans to study how quiet it really is and how long the surface lasts.

It's doubtful, though, the new PFC asphalt will be added as covering on other freeways considering TxDOT doesn't currently have the cash to make that common.

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