AHWATUKEE, AZ — ***Update****
Friday, noise engineers with the Arizona Department of Transportation ran several sound tests within the Promontory at Foothills West community, just off south mountain, overlooking the new loop 202 expansion.
The community is filled with new homeowners who say they were aware of the plans for the freeway addition, but say ADOT officials promised them a completed sound wall to help drown out traffic noise. Instead, the existing wall ends several hundred feet short, leaving a large gap and according to residents, allowing noise to funnel into the neighborhood.
“We couldn’t really get an answer on why they changed the design from a wall to no wall," said Stephen Whaloey. "In the last few days, we’ve learned that it was for efficiency, which is cost savings.”
Residents say ADOT officials told them the entire freeway project actually came in under budget as well.
"We’re only in week three now, and in month three when there’s more traffic and the noise level goes up, hopefully they’ll understand that they need to take action to fix it," added Whaloey.
Noise engineers used a sound decibel reader to determine the noise level beside homes nearest to the freeway. ADOT officials said several reading showed levels under 59 decibels, just under the 64 decibel federal guideline, but still a nuisance to homeowners.
“It’s louder than it should be it’s louder than it was promised and that wall truly should’ve been extended," said Kristy Jozwiak. “A lot of us but our forever homes in this community, we came in knowing the freeway was going to be here, and we were promised that this wall was going to be extended and that there wasn’t going to be that big of a noise concern.”
The extension of the Valley's South Mountain Freeway may have been long-awaited for drivers, but some homeowners living along the new stretch are angered by the outcome.
“We’ve lost that value and enjoyment that you should have in a home," said Beth Gagnon who lives near 32nd Street where the new freeway extension backs up. “Now I know what it’s like to be in jail, because we have this giant wall, and I have no view."
Gagnon bought her home in 1997 when the freeway project was still a proposal and has been an outspoken critic against the $3 million dollar project ever since.
"I think that a lot of people thought that this was their forever home, but that’s been taken away," she added.
Gagnon says since the 202 extension opened in late December, she's had trouble sleeping, saying the sounds of cars and trucks going up and down the freeway can be heard even behind closed doors.
"I sleep with cotton balls or earplugs in my ears which lessens the noise a little bit, but you can still hear it," she said. “There was no construction - it was literally the traffic that was making the noise and the vibration and shaking the house," she said.
On top of noise, Gagnon says bright lights meant to illuminate the freeway for drivers at night shine directly into her home.
Tom Herrmann, a spokesperson for The Arizona Department of Transportation, says they've received several complaints from homeowners living in the Promontory neighborhood - a new subdivision located inside the Ahwatukee Foothills area- regarding noise levels.
Along most of the freeway, crews built a sound wall to try and keep noise levels from moving traffic away from homes. That wall ends just before reaching the Promontory community.
The Arizona Department of Transportation says they plan to send crews to run sound tests near homes in that neighborhood, to determine if the noise levels are above 64 decibels.
Herrmann says that's the maximum allowable amount according to federal guidelines for noise mitigation.