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New noise barrier along I-94 in Twin Cities raising a ruckus

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It's a new look for a sound barrier along Interstate 94 in Minneapolis. And it's getting mixed reviews from the folks who drive past it on a regular basis.

The existing sound wall on the south side of the interstate between Hwy. 280 and Huron Boulevard has been covered with a thick layer of mineral wool to help absorb more traffic noise. But it's the outer layer - the panels of sheet metal in 12 different colors – that's getting all the attention.

The people who live in the Prospect Park neighborhood don't care so much how they look. They're just glad to have a little more peace and quiet.

According to KSTP, the sound barrier on the south side had to be retrofitted because of an unusual phenomenon in the area.

The traffic noise from more than 150,000 vehicles a day has been bouncing off the sound walls on both the north and the south sides of the freeway along that stretch, and reverberating into the neighborhoods nearby.

"The sound was just horrible," Prospect Park resident Amy Hargens told the Star Tribune, adding that she couldn't be outside in her yard for more than 10 minutes because of the din.

Although Hargens said she's not a fan of the color scheme, she's noticed it's much quieter now that the barrier has been modified.

Bobbie Dahlke, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, told MPR News her agency worked closely with Prospect Park neighbors to come up with the design. She adds it's the first time MnDOT has used the special panels.

The modifications to the 2,200-foot-long wall cost $758,000, according to Dahlke. The south wall was built in 2011, and she told the Star Tribune the department didn't expect the noise problems at the time it was first installed.

MnDOT now has a policy in place to test for noise problems when new sound barriers are built.

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