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Red Wing: Should only neighbors decide fate of noise wall?

The proposed $100 million interstate bridge in Red Wing could include soundwalls to reduce traffic noise, as shown in this rendering. Whether to build the soundwalls or not will be voted on by affected property owners in August.

RED WING — The $100 million interstate bridge project in Red Wing is in the final stretch of preliminary planning , but the biggest remaining hurdle could be a $6.5 million noise wall that will be decided by public vote.

That remains a tricky logistical battle mandated by the Federal Highway Administration.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is proposing a 1,300-foot long, 20-foot high wall along U.S. Highway 61 on the east side of Red Wing. It's designed to help reduce sound disturbances near the new buttonhook ramp, which is expected to divert up to 90 percent of traffic from Wisconsin away from downtown Red Wing.

However, the only city residents who will be allowed to vote are those in the immediate vicinity of the wall and would see noise levels drop by 5 decibels or more. That means the owners or renters of just 43 parcels are eligible in a city of 16,000, said MnDOT consultant Kristin Petersen, SEH's visual quality planner.

A handful of citizens voiced concerns about the voting process during last week's MnDOT meeting held at the Red Wing Public Library. One claimed the vote wasn't very democratic.


Petersen said the voting standards are established by the federal government. As such, MnDOT has no authority to tweak the process.

MnDOT has tentatively scheduled another public meeting for Aug. 19 to specifically discuss the noise wall. It's aimed at educating eligible voters on project details, but it also might draw residents opposed to spoiling the city's southern entrance, near Barn Bluff.

"I haven't heard anyone say, 'That looks awesome,'" Petersen admitted after the public meeting held Wednesday night.

If the nearby neighborhood opts against the noise wall, those dollars couldn't be used elsewhere on the interstate bridge project, Petersen said.

Dean Hove, Red Wing City Council president, said the city has been briefed on the project but doesn't intend to take a position before the vote. He expects the noise wall to be approved, and he's "OK with it either way."

Petersen said Red Wing could add additional funding to the noise wall project if it's approved to create a custom design. That option hasn't been discussed by the council — but it could become a priority in September, if the noise wall is approved.

Goodhue County Engineer Greg Isakson, for example, said he'd prefer an earthen berm noise wall, though that might prove impractical given space constraints in the residential area.

"If (voters) say they want the wall and the city says MnDOT's standard wall is hideous, then maybe they'll come up with more money to do something different," Petersen said.


If approved, the noise wall would be built during construction of the new interstate bridge between 2017 and 2019.

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