By Matt Wiley
Sam Shaheen could sometimes forget that I-75 was right behind his home on Yardley Way in Tampa Palms. That is, until all the trees behind his house were chopped down, leaving the home with a front row view of the noisy interstate. Now, however, a large, cement “sound wall” has been erected to “fix” the problem.
“They told us about four years ago that a wall would go up,” says Shaheen. “I guess I thought they would have left the trees up and built the wall behind them. It was a very nice view. I was shocked.”
Several homes along Yardley Way and Hammet Rd. in The Enclave once enjoyed pleasant views of a small pond bordered by trees on the far side, shielding the residences from the not-so-pleasant view of I-75.
Seeing the interstate out the back window would be bad enough, but it has become especially worse thanks to the current construction project to widen the interstate to three lanes in both directions. And now, residents living on the east end of the street get to stare at a large cement wall.
Chris Welcomer and his family just moved onto Yardley Way about three weeks ago, before the wall was built.
“They put it up fast,” he says. “We saw the posts for it when we were moving in. They told us when we were closing on the house that it wouldn’t be up until the fall.”
Welcomer says that there has been a small difference in the amount of noise since the wall was put up, but nothing too substantial.
Spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) John McShaffrey explains that the wall will only be in place at certain sections along the interstate.
“Only one section qualified (for a wall),” he says, “and that is on the west side of I-75 in front of The Enclave.”
McShaffrey says that, through noise studies, FDOT examines the cost of each wall and looks at how many homes will ultimately be affected by interstate noise to determine which sections qualify for a wall.
He also says that noise studies have shown that trees don’t really factor into noise buffering.
FDOT is exempt from any local ordinances concerning the replanting of trees along the interstate corridor. He says they are considered “clear zones” and that, with the widening of the interstate, there has to be room for storm drainage to be installed. In addition, trees have to be planted a certain distance away from the interstate as a precaution for any vehicles that veer off the roadway.
“(FDOT) is not replacing any trees at this point,” he says. However, City of Tampa Parks & Recreation director Greg Bayor says that there will be Southern Red Cedars planted in between the gaps in the sound wall to help eliminate the interstate from view. But, for those living with the wall view, as of this point, no trees are planned to be planted in front of the noise wall.