Noise won't be problem, speedway study contends Middle River residents skeptical of report

September 20, 1997|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Residents near a proposed speedway in eastern Baltimore County would not be severely affected by noise from racing cars or motorcycles, according to a new study prepared for the developers, the Middle River Racing Association.

Gordon Bricken & Associates, an acoustical and energy engineering firm in Los Angeles, reported that "noise generated by race events can be controlled, and will have a negligible impact on the adjacent communities."

Engineers said MRRA will incorporate noise abatement measures, such as berms and the walled exterior of the speedway, to limit noise levels. Christopher A. Jean, an acoustical engineer with Bricken, said, "If people on Bird River Road are 1,500 feet away from the speedway on a race day, it will sound like a lawn mower a half-block away."

Objectivity questioned

"Yeah, a lawn mower going for four hours," said Albert Marani, one of the local residents who question the validity of the study.

Marani, owner of a Baltimore construction firm, says he is reconsidering building a home on Stansbury Creek in Wilson Point because of the proposed speedway. He says the east side already has plenty of noise from C-130 and A-10 aircraft at nearby Martin State Airport, from rail and truck traffic and from boats.

Other speedway critics question whether the study -- for which the association paid $20,000 -- is an unbiased look at the issue.

"Many people have concerns about the objectivity of a study paid for by MRRA," said Brian Parker, chairman of the Maryland Sierra Club.

But Joseph Mattioli III, a top official of MRRA, said: "The people who want to believe our study will, those who don't, won't."

Benefits predicted

Speedway proponents say auto racing, America's fastest-growing spectator sport, will help to revive the economically troubled east side, bringing jobs, tax revenues and free-spending tourists. If all goes well, a 48,000-seat track -- with the potential for expansion to 100,000 seats -- could open in the summer of 1999.

Opponents, meanwhile, have raised concerns about pollution, noise and traffic jams around the site, a 1,100-acre tract off Eastern Boulevard near Martin State Airport. And officials at NASCAR, which sanctions the highly popular Winston Cup races, have expressed reservations -- chiefly because they want to expand in other parts of the nation.

Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said yesterday that the county Department of Public Works will examine the MRRA study, which addresses noise and traffic issues, "and make judgments to see if it's workable.

"While we are in support of the [speedway] concept, we are equally commited to protecting the community," he said.

Dover Downs impact

Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, the Perry Hall Democrat who represents the area, is traveling to Dover Downs International Speedway in Delaware today to look at the impact of traffic there.

Gardina holds the crucial vote in determining whether the

speedway site will receive a special zoning exemption, clearing the way for development. Traditionally in zoning matters, the County Council defers to the member for the area concerned.

Gardina, like other county and state officials, says the speedway is unlikely to be built unless Route 43 is extended from Pulaski Highway to Eastern Boulevard -- an important link to Interstate 95.

Bus route barred

Gardina also opposes a major element of MRRA's traffic proposal -- using Bird River Road as an exclusive bus route from parking lots at Essex Community College and Martin State Airport.

"There will be no ingoing and outgoing bus or auto traffic on Bird River Road to the track, nothing at all," Gardina said. "It is a rural two-lane road built at the beginning of the century, and it is not able to handle large volumes of any kind of traffic, especially buses."

Under its plan, MRRA wants to bring up to 27 percent of the spectators to the speedway by mass transit.

Mattioli says developers have agreed to help fund a widening of Eastern Boulevard near Carroll Island Road to Earls Road. Earls Road would also be widened to three lanes, and an old, narrow bridge over railroad tracks would be rebuilt to accommodate three lanes.

Major race events, with capacity attendance, would occur only three times a year, according to the plan.

Ambient noise

As for noise, Jean, the acoustics engineer, said that while most will be "trapped" inside the speedway, "obviously, the track will raise the ambient noise sometime or other," especially on windy days.

Critics remain opposed.

"When this speedway idea first started two years ago, all we heard about was Winston Cup races and America's top drivers coming to the state-of-the-art speedway in Middle River," said Parker, a White Marsh resident. "Now NASCAR says they won't give racing dates to this area, the quality of races shrink, and we suddenly have the incredible shrinking speedway.

"I wish it would shrink away."

Pub Date: 9/20/97

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