Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Are there Plans to Build a Barrier Between I-93 and Ten Hills/East Somerville?

Resident Question: I'm curious as to whether or not there's ever been an effort to create a sound/air barrier between 93 and the Ten Hills/East Somerville neighborhoods it goes so close to. It seems like many far-flung suburbs have walls like that, so I'd think it would be needed in such a dense location.

Answer: I went straight to Mayor Curtatone with this question. He said the City can certainly look into making this a priority and that he considers the need for a higher/better barrier between I-93 and the East Somerville and Ten Hills neighborhoods important for two reasons: both to lower noise levels and to reduce the spread of air pollution from the highway into the area.

As you may know, in spring 2010 Somerville was awarded a $749,893 federal grant to mitigate and study the impact of ultrafine particles (air pollution) on the health of residents living near I-93 in the Mystic Housing development. The three-year project and study in collaboration with Tufts University and the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership is still under way (more about it HERE). The above image show the levels of ultrafine particles measured in the air in the East Somerville/Ten Hills area in 2009. Black is the highest concentration; red is medium, and yellow is lowest.

Highway sound barriers have been proven effective in reducing air pollution in neighboring areas in some cases by up to 50 percent. At this time the Massachusetts Department of Transportation dedicates $6.25 million of funding for noise barriers per year and prioritizes them as they see fit. The process for requesting and receiving this funding takes time. I'll keep the blog updated on any news of City efforts regarding this. Thank you for bringing this up.


  1. I have a solution for the fine particles and that is to use a new wall that is developed by Retaining walls north west in Seattle, their wall in a vegetative wall that blocks sound and pollution but also can be planted with flowers. For more information call Randy at 1-604-630-2439

  2. Hi, I would like to build a small retaining wall on either side of my driveway around the concrete drainage pipe. Is there anything I should be aware of with this project, or is it just a straight forward retaining wall as stated here.


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