Posts Tagged ‘rail noise’

BTS Releases National Transportation Noise Map

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

by Mary Ellen Eagan


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ (BTS) initial National Transportation Noise Map was released earlier this week.  It shows that more than 97 percent of the U.S. population has the potential to be exposed to noise from aviation and Interstate highways at levels above below 50 decibels (roughly comparable to the noise level of a humming refrigerator).  A much smaller segment of the U.S. resident population has the potential to be exposed to higher levels of aviation and Interstate highway noise. Less than one-tenth of a percent of the population could potentially experience noise levels of 80 decibels or more, equivalent to the noise level of a garbage disposal.

The purpose of the noise map is to facilitate the tracking of trends in transportation-related noise, by mode, and collectively for multiple transportation modes. The data allow viewing the national picture of potential exposure to aviation and highway noise. The data also allow viewing of the potential exposure at the state or county level.

The National Transportation Noise Map will be an addition to the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD), a set of nationwide geographic databases of transportation facilities, networks, and associated infrastructure available from the BTS Geospatial Data Catalog. The layers will be updated on an annual basis, and future versions of the National Transportation Noise Map are envisioned to include additional transportation noise sources, such as rail and maritime.

The BTS map contains aircraft and road noise inventory data provided as web map services (WMS) for use with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), computer programs that can store, analyze, and present spatial or geographic data.

The mapping was developed by the DOT’s Volpe Center, using data sources from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create a comprehensive map of noise levels. The FAA’s Aviation Environmental Design Tool was used to model the average number of daily flight operations from airports across the country, excluding airports with exclusively military operations. To determine daily road noise data, algorithms from the FHWA’s Traffic Noise Model were used in conjunction with data from the Highway Performance Monitoring System to obtain the average daily noise levels for automobiles, medium trucks, and heavy trucks. The acoustics modeling used in developing these noise layers uses conservative, simplified methods, and only considers transportation noise (no other ambient noise sources). Documentation on the modeling assumptions is available at The noise data in the layers should be used for the purpose of tracking trends, not for assessing impacts. This data release represents the first year of data that can be used to analyze future trends.

TRB Highlights – Rail

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Jason Ross

One of the best highlights from the 91st Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. was the “Riding the NEPA Railroad Workshop” on Sunday.  I usually find the workshops interesting and engaging and this year was no different.  Leading NEPA experts from FRA, FTA and FHWA compared the NEPA processes across all three agencies – something HMMH has experienced firsthand.  HMMH is leading the noise and vibration studies for two of the three highlighted projects including the Desert Xpress high-speed rail line proposed from Victorville, CA to Las Vegas, NV and the California High-Speed Rail Project between Fresno to Merced.

NEPA experts helped to again fill the house for Session 737 on “Expediting Environmental Review: Underlying Causes for Runaway Process”.  This session focused on the growing need to streamline the NEPA process.  Did you know the average time to complete an EIS has been 67 months?!  One project for which HMMH is proud to have conducted the noise and vibration analysis is the Dallas Streetcar EA.  This project resulted in a 14-page EA that was completed in 14 months.  Horst Greczmiel, from the Council on Environmental Quality, presented on recent NEPA trends including the availability of a tool to streamline the public comment and response process.  More information can be found on these recent trends and CEQ recommendations here.

Railroad Environmental Conference

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

by Lance Meister

I attended the Railroad Environmental Conferenceat the University of Illinois last week.  The conference is a good one, but quite focused on the freight rail industry.  Chris Barkan and Kim Hagemann do an excellent job of planning the conference every year.  The presentations are more technical than at many conferences, and there’s a good mix of people from across the industry.  In addition to the University of Illinois Railroad Engineering program, the conference is also sponsored by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Railway Engineering & Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA).

The conference attendance is comprised of freight railroad environmental staff, consultants in the field and academics.  The focus of the conference has shifted somewhat over the years, from one focused on hazardous waste and remediation to air quality, greenhouse gases and sustainability.

Freight railroads (along with transit) have been promoting their “green” side, focusing on removing cars and trucks from the roads, and the inherent advantages in rail transportation of bulk commodities.  If you have time, here’s an interesting report discussing freight vs. trucks in significant detail.  The railroads are also being required to introduce locomotives that reduce diesel emissions.

While noise and vibration are not central issues to the freight railroads, HMMH has participated in this conference for a number of years, presenting papers, chairing sessions, or participating on the planning committee.  Last year I took over for Carl Hanson of HMMH on the planning committee and chaired the noise and vibration session.  This year I presented a paper on noise and vibration considerations in shared use corridors. The presentation deals with the noise and vibration issues that arise on corridors where freight and transit either share the tracks or the right-of-way.  Planners are looking at freight corridors more and more as potential locations for transit projects, so this topic is becoming more of an issue.  HMMH has worked on a number of these projects around the country and experienced many of the challenging problems that can arise on these types of projects.

The conference will be held again next fall in Champaign.  If you are interested in participating, keep watching the site.  The call for papers usually goes out in March/April, and the hotels always fill up fast!  The conference organizers are hoping to get more involvement from passenger railroads and consultants in that field, so if you think you have something of interest (not just in noise, but any environmental topic) you should consider submitting a paper.

Transportation Funding Inequities

Friday, August 27th, 2010

by Lance Meister

I saw this article and thought it was worth posting here for others to see.  Those of us in the transit business often complain about the disadvantages we face relative to highways and airports, and the bias that exists towards “subsidized” transportation modes.  The following article really sums up quite well the stark difference in funding that exists between highways and transit systems.  It also seems to suggest that highways might also be subsidized by the government.  Gasp!

It would be interesting to see if and/or how much the curves have changed in the last few years.  I’m guessing that the relationship is probably identical.  For all the hype over the amount of money in the stimulus funding for high speed rail, it still pales in comparison to the amount that was provided for highways.  We are still a car culture, but things do seem to be shifting ever so slightly. 

If you care about transit funding, you should contact your representatives and let them know.  The next multi-year transportation funding bill is still being worked on, and you should let your voice be heard.  You could also consider joining APTA, which is a great organization that helps promote transit in the US.

I have to say that I also really like the title of the article, which is probably much more apropos than the title I chose for this post!

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.