Barbara Kendrick has listened to the flapping of tires and the roar of engines from 18-wheelers barreling along Interstate 95 near her Howard County home, day and night, for 16 years.
"You can't open your windows, because if you do, and then say something to somebody in the next room or even a few feet
away, they can't hear you," said Kendrick of Elkridge's Timberview development. "The noise level is so high that you wish you could turn it off sometimes."
She calls the open area between her home and I-95 "the roaring woods."
Now she is looking forward to relative quiet. Kendrick and her neighbors were told Friday that Maryland and Howard County officials had devised a plan to pay for a sound barrier that would shield them from the traffic noise, or at least enable them to hold conversations without shouting.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer and County Executive Elizabeth Bobo delivered the news to the community at Kendrick's home.
Bobo has committed $200,000 of county money to the $700,000 project and the state will pay the remainder, although the federal government normally pays 90 percent of the costs for barrier construction. Construction is expected to begin next summer.
The Timberview barrier was ranked 23rd on a list of priorities developed by the State Highway Administration, but federal funding cutbacks allowed the SHA to start only 17 barrier constructions, said Charles Adams, chief of the agency's landscape architect division.
SHA officials told Timberview residents in July that their barrier would not be built this summer as the agency projected in 1985, and instead was on hold indefinitely.
"You can imagine how angry we felt," said Kendrick, who along with neighbor Joe Sappington then formed Families Against Noise. The group complained to local officials and the local press about their problem. "We decided that if we kept on being patient we'd never get the barrier," she said.
They knew they would get sympathy when Bobo and other local officials accepted their invitation to a neighborhood picnic last month and heard the incessant thunder of trucks.
"They designed that to be an eye-opener," said Bobo assistant Althea O'Connor. She said the executive discussed possible ways to fund construction of a barrier with state Dels. William Bevan and Robert DiPietro, D-District 13B; Sen. Thomas Yeager, D-District 13, and Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass and then sent a letter to Schaefer.
The governor told the residents that he visited the neighborhood twice to observe the noise and agreed to provide money for a barrier.
Adams said the agency has not determined which funds will be used for the construction. He projected that the barrier could reduce by as much as half the noise outside the Timberview homes, which now registers at about 72 decibels. And that's music to Kendrick's ears.
"It shows that the little guy can get involved in things and make a difference. The little guy can be heard," she said.