As lovely as a tree? Noise abatement: Plans to landscape widened Route 32 would help with aesthetics but not sound.

October 05, 1998

OUT OF SIGHT, out of mind is the only answer officials have come up with to complaints about noisy traffic on Route 32. It had been suggested that planting trees might muffle the vehicles that can be heard through the closed windows of nearby houses. The State Highway Administration now says trees won't help much, but it will plant some anyway.

Plans to plant more than 800 evergreen trees on each side of Route 32 near Columbia and Clarksville were announced a week ago by state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe at a River Hill village board meeting. But Charlie Adams, SHA director of environmental design, acknowledged that the trees won't effectively serve as noise abatement even after they mature.

Mr. Adams' candor understandably leaves people wondering whether the $50,000 expense of planting the trees will be worth the result. Nearby residents won't be able to see the traffic, but they will still hear it. The noise level is likely to increase when Route 32 is widened to accommodate additional traffic that has accompanied tremendous development in Howard County.

Opponents of widening Route 32 will use the state's inability to ease the noise problem as additional ammunition to fight the road project. It is not reason enough for the project to be suspended. The rush-hour bottleneck where Route 32 narrows from four lanes to two is not only inconvenient but dangerous. Widening the road and perhaps adding an interchange makes the most sense.

As state and county officials move closer to a decision on the future of Route 32, they should explore options beyond planting trees to abate the noise. Perhaps homebuyers near this busy thoroughfare should have expected the daily serenade of 18-wheelers. But if some relief can be provided at a reasonable cost, it should be sought. Planting trees won't suffice.

Pub Date: 10/05/98

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