Archive for October, 2009

First Founders’ Award

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

by Nick Miller

With Mary Ellen’s encouragement, Bob, Carl and I developed the concept for a “Founders’ Award” that would be used to recognize a project and the team that made that project reflect some of the fundamental principles we had in mind when we started HMMH.  The inscription on the award says it best:

“In recognition of outstanding performance on a project that was uniquely challenging, technically innovative, and resulted in proven client satisfaction.”

Founders' Award Plaque

Founders' Award Plaque

As shown on the plaque, which we awarded at the HMMH Annual Meeting this month, we chose the first recipient Dave Towers and his team that conducted the “Dynamics and Noise Consultancy Services for Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.”  This was a project Dave led in Kowloon to provide vibration isolation for a new underground link between the East Rail and West Rail lines in the center of Kowloon.  The line passes near the world famous Peninsula Hotel, other hotels, residential buildings, the science museum, and a concert hall.  The tunnel had to be constructed without causing damaging or annoying vibrations, and designed to prevent vibrations from train operations once completed.

After the tunnel was built and the vibration control treatments we had analyzed and judged to be adequate were installed, but before any trains ran on the tracks, HMMH measured transmission of vibrations from the finished tunnel into the sensitive buildings during a field trip Jason Ross called “the most difficult one in recorded history!”  The transmission data helped refine the analysis and further confirmed the adequacy of the treatments.

Recently the Environmental Project Director, Richard Kwan, met with Carl at Internoise in Ottawa and reported the line is open for service and there are no noise or vibration problems.  Richard told Carl:

“Dave impressed us greatly with his superb technical knowledge and skillful application of such.  We’re delighted that he understood the client’s objectives and requirements so well and executed his assignments in a manner that would be an envy to many professionals.  Dave is a rare combination of sterling technical expert, master diplomat and seasoned project manager.”

Dave Towers deserves credit for successfully managing a difficult project with a challenging budget.  Jason and Tim Johnson were involved in the technical work and helped Dave teach a rail noise course to the client’s staff in Hong Kong.  Doug Barrett was called upon in an emergency to drop everything and attend project review meetings in Hong Kong.  Carl was involved in negotiations and contract meetings, mostly ceremonial, in Hong Kong.

We’re delighted to have begun a tradition and hope the award will be given to special projects from now forever forward to help keep HMMH’s fundamental principles alive.

ACI-NA Rocks Austin!

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’ve just returned from the ACI-NA Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World, which offers me an opportunity to talk about temporary threshold shift.  TTS occurs when one is exposed to significant noise levels for a temporary period of time – listening to the Eggmen at Maggie Mae’s for several hours Monday night, for example.  A study in the 1980’s measured the temporary hearing loss of volunteer subjects exposed to a Bruce Springsteen concert.  The average sound exposure during the four-hour concert was 100 dBA.  The subjects’ hearing was tested 30 minutes and 16 hours after the end of the concert; immediately after the concert 5 of the 6 subjects experienced significant threshold shift (<50 dB) predominantly in the 4-8 KHz range; by 16 hours after the concert ended, hearing had returned to normal in all of the subjects.  I don’t know about the rest of you who were there on Monday, but my ears are still ringing.  However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Other excitement at the conference included:

Look for the Environmental Affairs Seminar presentations to be posted soon on the ACI-NA website.

I’m looking forward to the next Environmental Affairs Committee Conference in San Antonio, April 13-16, 2010

FHWA Proposes Revisions to Procedures for Traffic Noise Abatement

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

by Doug Barrett

On September 17, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and request for comments related to 23 CFR Part 772.  For those involved with traffic noise analysis, 23 CFR Part 772 is the source from which all other state or local guidance flows.  While maintaining much of the existing regulation, the proposed changes would provide many clarifications, as well as some new additions and other changes that may influence traffic noise studies for many years to come.

Highway Traffic

Highway Traffic

First, a little background information for those not familiar with 23 CFR Part 772.  This portion of the Code of Federal Regulations addresses “Procedures for Abatement of Highway Traffic Noise and Construction Noise” and provides the basis for State transportation agency noise abatement standards in use throughout the U.S.  The regulation, originally developed as a requirement of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970, applies to highway construction projects where a State department of transportation has requested federal funding for the project.  The FHWA provided further clarification and guidance in the 1995 document “Highway Traffic Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy and Guidance.”   While updating the 1995 document, the FHWA determined that certain changes to 23 CFR Part 772 were necessary.

The current NPRM proposes numerous changes to the existing regulation.  While soliciting comments on all the proposed changes, the FHWA is specifically seeking comments on three additions to the regulation:

  • The first would require highway agencies to determine a baseline cost-reasonableness value.  This value, which would require FHWA approval, may include the actual construction cost of noise abatement, cost per square foot of abatement, and either the cost per benefited receiver or cost per benefited receiver per dB(A) noise reduction.  In addition, highway agencies would be required to reevaluate these costs at least every five years.
  • The second addition would provide a change from past FHWA guidance regarding when third parties may contribute additional funds to a noise abatement measure or aesthetic treatment.  The NPRM would allow third party contributions only after the highway agency has determined that the noise abatement measure is feasible and reasonable.
  • The third addition would require each highway agency to maintain an inventory of all constructed noise abatement measures.

Other portions of the NPRM provide definitions or clarification of terms included either in the current regulation or in the 1995 policy document.  For example:

  • “Residence” would be defined to include all dwelling units, e.g., owner-occupied, rental units, and mobile homes.  In addition, “multi-family dwelling” would be defined.
  • “Special land use facilities” would be defined and would include picnic areas, recreation areas, playgrounds, active sport areas, parks, motels, hotels, schools, places of worship, libraries, hospitals, cemeteries, campgrounds, trails, and trail crossings.
  • The terms “planned, designed, and programmed” and “date of public knowledge” would be defined to clarify the cut-off date for considering new residential construction for noise abatement.
  • “Severe noise impact” would be defined.  Areas meeting this definition may be eligible for (1) exterior noise abatement that exceeds the allowable cost for feasible and reasonable abatement measures, or for (2) consideration of interior noise insulation for privately owned structures.
  • States would be required to define a “Substantial increase” criterion that is between 10 and 15 dBA over existing noise levels.
  • “Benefited” receptors must recieve “at least 5 dBA reduction” and benefited recievers must be included in determining cost reasonableness, even if not impacted.
  • The noise analysis study area would be required to extend at least 500 feet from all termini of the project build alternatives.

The NPRM also would require highway agencies choosing to participate in a Type II (retrofit) noise barrier program to develop an FHWA-approved priority system, based on a variety of factors, and rank the projects.  While some state agencies currently employ system-wide prioritization lists (HMMH has assisted the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the District of Columbia, and the New York State Thruway Authority in the development of their Type II prioritization lists), others currently construct Type II barriers based on ad hoc funding made available on a project by project basis.

This is a summary of only some of the proposed changes.  The full NPRM is available at  Comments on the NPRM must be received by November 16, 2009 and may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Airport Noise Mitigation Discussed in Boca Raton, Florida

Friday, October 9th, 2009

by Gene Reindel

The Boca Raton Airport Authority hosted the ninth annual AAAE Airport Noise Mitigation Symposium (ANMS), which turned out to be one of the best nine years.  Kim Singer, Boca Raton Airport Authority Public Affairs and ANMS Chair for 2009, provided venue in Delray Beach that will be nearly impossible to beat, and scheduled a tour of their recently completed sound insulation program which highlighted the designs required to meet the recently updated codes in south Florida.

In between the fun, the ANMS provided attendees with applicable information for implementing a successful airport sound insulation or land acquisition program as part of their noise mitigation.  Topics ranged from shrinking noise contours to noise programs outside the 65 DNL on the noise side, to dealing with homeowners and green technologies on the implementation side, to implementing land acquisition programs and disposing of land acquired for noise purposes.  The most interesting session occurred when contractors and suppliers identified issues prevalent in sound insulation programs around the country and sought out solutions from the roundtable members and the audience.  This session was successful at keeping the audience engaged throughout the duration, much akin to the Merv Griffin Show – okay, now I am dating myself.

I feel compelled to recognize Eric Raboin from the Jones Payne Group in Boston for chairing the ANMS Agenda Committee and for delivering the successful and compelling agenda for the conference attendees.  Due to the economy at airports, the session moderators had a difficult time finding speakers, but through perseverance of the moderators and the unwavering support from Mr. Raboin, all the sessions were a success.  At the ANMS Planning Committee debrief after the Symposium concluded, the entire Committee in attendance thanked Mr. Raboin for his dedication and service with round of applause. 

For airports in the throws of implementing a sound insulation programs and/or a land acquisition program, or for those airports beginning or considering to implement such a program, the ANMS is a must attend event.  The social networking with peers in similar programs across the country is undeniably beyond compare.  You will get more information and tools to help ensure a successful program at your airport in two days at the ANMS than you would otherwise obtain in a year of planning.  And the connections you make at the ANMS will remain intact as you continue throughout the year in your programs.

I am already looking forward to the 10th annual ANMS, which will be hosted by San Francisco International Airport in early October, 2010.  Mark your calendars for October 3, 4, and 5, 1010.  I hope to see you in San Francisco.

Noise Outside DNL 65

Monday, October 5th, 2009

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Well, this is a blog post I’ve been thinking about for some time (probably since before I knew what a “blog” was – though I just learned that the term was coined in 1984 – ironically, the same year I started in this business), but is precipitated by the publication of ACRP Synthesis 16, Compilation of Noise Programs in Areas Outside the DNL 65, primary author, yours truly.


If you’ve been tracking my publications closely (or reading Airport Noise Report), you’ll already know the conclusions.  For those of you haven’t, I’ll summarize briefly.

The ACRP synthesis was based on an online survey of 43 airports, designed primarily to identify the airports’ reasons for addressing noise outside DNL 65, and the wide range of techniques used to address it.  The survey included five general questions regarding noise issues outside DNL 65.  I was not surprised by the results:

  • A majority of respondents (83%) indicated that noise issues outside DNL 65 were “important,” “very important” or “critical” to their airport.  The remaining 17% were evenly split, stating that noise issues outside the DNL 65 were “somewhat important” or “not at all important.”
  • How important are noise concerns outside DNL 65 for your airport?

    How important are noise concerns outside DNL 65 for your airport?

  • The most frequently listed method of minimizing noise outside the DNL 65 was operator education and outreach (74% of respondents), followed by noise abatement flight tracks (69%), preferential runway use programs (66%), noise abatement departure or arrival procedures (60%), and ground noise control (51%).
  • Eighty percent of respondents indicated that “community concerns” were the motivation for addressing noise outside the DNL 65; fifty-seven percent also indicated that “preventative planning” was a motivation.
  • Almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) indicated that more than 75% of their airport’s noise complaints came from people who live outside DNL 65.
  • The most common outreach tools to communicate with people exposed to noise outside DNL 65 are websites (74%), community meetings/forums (74%), online tracking (40%), and newsletters (40%).

The survey also found the following:

  • A majority of surveyed airports use noise abatement departure (63%) and arrival (51%) flight tracks and departure (54%) and arrival (40%) cockpit procedures to minimize noise over residential and other noise-sensitive neighborhoods.  However, among surveyed airports there is no consistency in methodology among airports for evaluating noise abatement outside DNL 65, and there is little guidance or support from the FAA on appropriate metrics or criteria for evaluating noise abatement procedures.
  • Most airports reported some procedures to minimize ground noise (69%); 25% of those airports reported that the procedures were developed primarily to address noise outside DNL 65, and an additional 38% reported that procedures were developed to address noise issues both inside and outside DNL 65.
  • More than half of the surveyed airports (57%) reported having land use compatibility measures that apply outside DNL 65.  The tools used by airports for land use compatibility planning include zoning, building permits that require sound insulation or residential and noise-sensitive non residential land uses, and disclosure to residents.
  • The majority of respondents (58%) do not provide sound insulation to homeowners living outside DNL 65.  However, 20% provide sound insulation for homes in contiguous neighborhoods (“block rounding”), and an additional 15% provide sound insulation for homes within the DNL 60 dB contour.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) reported that they use both websites and face to face meetings to communicate with people exposed to noise outside DNL 65.
  • The responding airports communicate with pilots about noise outside DNL 65 in a number of ways.  The most common are: pilot briefings (40%) and Jeppesen inserts (40%), posters and handouts (37%), and FAA standards (17%); other methods include airfield signage, Airport Facility Directory Special Notices, videos distributed through flight schools, and phone calls.

What does it mean?

As I said above, none of these findings surprise me – and for those of you who work around airports, you’ll probably feel validated.  The real question is what does it mean for public policy?  I will be talking about results of this survey twice in the next couple of weeks: first at the AAAE Airport Noise Mitigation Symposiumin Boca Raton, FL on October 6th, and the following week (October 11) at the ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee Seminar in Austin, TX.  I look forward to engaging discussion with you, and will try to post the highlights here for those of you that can’t join us.