The buzz of interstate traffic used to be a low hum, but for about a year, the clanking of vehicles hitting holes and the roar of semis is rattling a Franklin neighborhood.
When a heavy semi drops into a pothole on Interstate 65, it can rattle the plates in the cabinets at Fred Brinkman’s home on Paris Drive. When he sits behind his house, which is located on the west side of Paris Drive overlooking a golf course, he can still hear the traffic.
The noise wasn’t too bad up until a year ago, when someone cut the height of the pine trees that separate the interstate from the neighborhood to about 10 feet, Brinkman said. Now the sound of passing vehicles blares up the block instead of bouncing back onto the road, he said. That’s why homeowners in Williams Pointe and Paris Estates and the city are asking the state to put up a sound barrier when I-65 is widened to three lanes next year.
Multiple lots in Franklin and Greenwood subdivisions back up to the treeline separating homes from the highway. Those trees do an OK job of blocking noise from cars, but noise from the louder semis is still a problem, residents said.
As traffic and especially truck traffic has increased on I-65, selling the lots closest to the interstate has become more difficult. About 25 lots are empty at Williams Pointe and are tough to sell when people hear the traffic, developer Fred Paris said. New homes are now going up in Greenwood Station subdivision off Sheek Road after about a five-year lull, but most of the lots still aren’t developed, resident Lynn Michalovic said.
The Indiana Department of Transportation will do sound testing before widening I-65 to three lanes in each direction next year to see whether a barrier wall is needed for residents, city engineers in Franklin and Greenwood said. Those types of barriers have been put up at some parts along Interstate 465 in Indianapolis, but they aren’t common outside the city loop, Franklin city engineer Travis Underhill said. Underhill doubts there is enough noise to justify walls but said the state will at least consider it.
“If you drive around the Indianapolis area or 465 loop and they’ve done the testing, you can see houses that are a lot closer to the highway than the ones in Franklin. Based on that, I would anticipate that it’s not very high chances,” Underhill said.
Brinkman never really noticed the noise for the first 10 years living in Williams Pointe, but over the past year the noise has increased. Trees were cut down and wooden fences near the highway have fallen over, which allows more noise, said Jim Arbuckle, secretary for the subdivision’s homeowner’s association.
When semis hit holes or areas where the pavement is mismatched, it can sound like a mortar shell exploding at Camp Atterbury, Arbuckle said.
Noise isn’t as much of a problem at Greenwood Station subdivision just south of Otte Golf Course in Greenwood, but several lots closest to the interstate are undeveloped, residents said. Semis create a low hum as they go by, which typically isn’t loud enough to hear if you’re inside, said resident and former homeowners association president Troy Campbell.
He said the sight of the highway detracts from the neighborhood more than the noise, where people can see vehicles driving past nearly all day. The original developer, Hansen and Horn, planned to use the dirt from home construction to build an earthen wall to block out the sight and sound of the interstate. But the developer went out of business, Campbell said, adding he’s not aware of any plans by the new developer to build it.
Like Franklin, Greenwood has orally requested the state consider building a barrier near that neighborhood, city engineer and director of community development services Mark Richards said. Greenwood Station is the closest neighborhood to the interstate; and, outside of some homes near Worthsville Road, Richards said he didn’t think a barrier would be needed anywhere else.
The cities will rely on the state to make a decision about barriers, since building a noise-blocking wall would be costly, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. The city researched the cost to put up a wall along the borders of Paris Estates, but the project would have been more than $1 million, he said.
“I’m not saying it’s not warranted, but it would be pretty astronomical. If it’s built into a project, maybe it’s a little more feasible,” McGuinness said.
Without a barrier, new homes are less likely to sell in either city.
New developer M/I Homes recently put in a road to the last phase of Greenwood Station, and some homes are going up, Campbell said.
But the noise is already noticeable in the neighborhood, Michalovic said, and she wouldn’t consider living any closer to the interstate than her home already is.
In Williams Pointe, about 25 lots are open for townhouses that hold two families each, and most of those lots are on the east side of Paris Drive, closer to the highway. Those houses typically have been sold to empty-nesters or retirees who want a quiet community, so the traffic noise is a turnoff to buyers.
“It wasn’t an easy sell in the beginning when the traffic wasn’t there, and it’s even tougher today. There’s no way that’s realistically going to sell with the noise out there,” Paris said.