By Pablo Jaime Sainz
If you live near a freeway without soundwalls you probably know this: The noise can be a problem. A big one.
Many National City residents who live near Interstate 805 know it. But soon, federal funds will change that.
On Friday, April 21, Congressman Bob Filner announced the awarding of $680,000 in new federal funds for the construction of new soundwalls along a stretch of I-805 freeway in National City.
When I-805 was built in the ‘70s, the government ran out of money to build the sound-walls, he said.
“People who live right on the edge of the freeway have to live with the constant noise,” Filner said. “The soundwalls would make life more livable for this people.”
The improvements are made possible through the recently-passed Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient, Equity Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which includes over $286 billion for highway, public transit and safety programs.
The funds will pay for the construction of soundwalls from Plaza Blvd. to 4th. St., which is about one-mile.
According to National City Councilmember Ron Morrison, who was at the press conference, Plaza Blvd. is a “heavily travelled street and it has a lot of truck traffic.”
“Not only that,” he added, “but there’s also the inclined ramp from Plaza to the freeway.”
Morrison said that the National City Council would receive many complaints from area residents about the extreme noise.
But the city couldn’t do anything to solve the problem, because freeways are a state issue, he said.
“I would meet with the director of State Transportation in Sacramento and show him pictures of the area, trying to convince them to build the soundwalls,” he said.
Morrison said that it wasn’t until Filner added the area into SAFETEA-LU that the Department of Transportation will receive the funds to build soundwalls.
Filner, who is a senior member of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said that some 100 families will benefit from this project.
“It raises the quality of life,” he said.
During the press conference, which took place in front of Jimmy’s Restaurant near Plaza Blvd. and I-805, Filner was joined by local elected officials and community leaders.
There, he presented a giant check to the City of National City.
He said that construction is expected to begin sometime this year, although he didn’t give an exact date.
SAFETEA-LU promotes more efficient and effective Federal surface transportation programs by focusing on transportation issues of national significance, while giving State and local transportation decision makers more flexibility for solving transportation problems in their communities.
Filner said that although soundwalls might not be up there with more high-profile issues, he said the project would make a difference in the lives of the National City families affected by the noise problem.
He also gave the example of Hebert, a small town located in Imperial County, part of Filner’s congressional district. With a population of about 3,000, virtually all of them Mexican-American, Hebert was long-forgotten, Filner said. Most of the streets there didn’t have sidewalks, making very dangerous for children walking to school.
Filner said that he was also able to get funds to build sidewalks there.
Throughout his tenure as a congressman, Filner said that he has fought for the highway and transit construction projects needed in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
“Highway and transit construction not only improve safety and ease congestion, but are a true economic stimulus,” he said.