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City, MnDOT gauge noise wall interest

If the community agrees to the noise barrier, it would stretch just under a mile from Hefner Avenue to 90th Street along Highway 61. Courtesy of the city of Cottage Grove

COTTAGE GROVE — The city and Minnesota Department of Transportation are considering a noise-blocking barrier along Highway 61 and East Point Douglas Road.

A meeting Sept. 13 gauged community interest in the noise barrier that would be built between Hefner Avenue and 90th Street to fight highway noise.

The need for a noise wall is determined in individual areas based on criteria including future highway traffic noise models, community support, cost feasibility and the age and density of the affected neighborhoods.

City Engineer Jennifer Levitt said there are 235 cities on the list that MnDOT looks at for noise barriers, and this stretch of Highway 61 in Cottage Grove is ranked 13. Eight of those top rankers have passed on the noise wall option for now, pushing Cottage Grove even higher.

If the community is in support of the barrier, it will move forward with the city and MnDOT. If the community is not in support of the wall it won't go forward at this time, but does not mean it can't be considered again in the future.

The Sept. 13 open house had both positive and negative voices, but the real data will come from a mailer sent by the city to those who would be within 500 feet of the wall. Those residents will respond with a simple yes or no check.

City Council will make a determination based on community engagement and data from the mailers at a meeting in December, Levitt said.

Details will be considered after public comment, such as design and materials of the wall, which could be built with either concrete or wood. A wall would not be more than 20 feet high, according to MnDOT.

The stretch — just under a mile long — where the barrier is being considered is almost entirely residential. The wall would not go in front of any businesses in order to keep their visibility from the highway.

If it turns out to be interest, Levitt said it likely wouldn't be constructed for another five or six years.

Levitt said the city does not get regular noise complaints from the highway at this time, especially after the highway was improved.

In 2017, MnDOT estimated a one-mile long noise wall would cost between $2.75 million and $3.8 million.

However, MnDOT will cover 90 percent of the cost, with the city covering the final 10 percent. Individual residents won't be assessed costs of the noise barrier.

MnDOT had built about 140 noise walls and berms throughout the state by 2017.