FARGO — A new lane is planned to be added to Interstate 94 in south Fargo, but residents who listened in on a virtual meeting hosted by the North Dakota Department of Transportation Tuesday night, May 4, were more concerned that a noise barrier wouldn't be erected.

The $1.4 million project, slated for the summer of 2023 and currently in the final planning stages, would involve adding a lane to eastbound I-94 from the Interstate 29 northbound exit ramp and the tri-level eastbound bridge to 25th Street.

It would be added on the south side of the interstate in what is often a clogged area during rush hour times, expanding that stretch of the roadway to four lanes. The exit ramp onto 25th Street from I-94 would also be expanded from one to two lanes.

NDDOT Engineer Aaron Murra said it would increase capacity on the interstate, decrease wait times during rush hour and accommodate future growth in the city.

Neighbors to the project asked NDDOT officials and contractors numerous questions about why they weren't going to add a noise barrier wall on both the north and south sides of the roadway in that stretch.

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Liz Ricciardi, who conducted a noise analysis study, said decibel levels would rise to 67 and approach the annoyance level. In all, she said, 67 properties on the north side of the interstate and 84 on the south side would meet requirements for a wall. Those properties fall in a 500-foot radius from the edge of the pavement on the interstate in both directions.

Decibel levels are "comfortable" under 60, she said.

However, the financial requirements for the walls weren't met. She said NDDOT regulations require a cost-to-benefitted-property ratio of $23,300.

The north wall, at a cost of $2.7 million, would benefit those 67 properties for a higher-than-allowed cost ratio of $54,139 per property. On a $3.4 million south side wall, the ratio for the 85 benefitted properties would be $32,948.

Resident Rick Engen asked if the state was working with the city of Fargo for a cost-share on the noise walls to make it more affordable.

The state said they weren't.

Engen also wondered if the study was done during pandemic times when traffic, and thus noise, would be down on the interstate.

Ricciardi said the equipment to measure the noise, which is like four giant microphones, was placed right next to the roadway in four locations and measured during the morning and evening rush hours, as well as the afternoon. Other data taken into account were traffic growth rates, traffic counts and other modeling data.

Cornelius Kooren, who lives in the Woodbury Park area on the south side of I-94 near where the planned lane would be added, said he would like to see a noise barrier and asked if future traffic growth was taken into account.

Another Woodbury Park area resident, Lee McLaughlin, asked if the wind velocity was measured in the noise level readings. He said they can sit on their patio, and with a south wind they can carry on a conversation, but with a north wind it's a different story.

McLaughlin also wondered if the two churches along the interstate in that area were considered when calculating the cost-ratio of benefitted properties compared to cost of the noise walls.

Residents can offer comments to the NDDOT through May 19 by emailing jrath@nd.gov or writing the department in Bismarck. The extra lane part of the project will be paid with 90% federal funds and 10% from the state.