who could potentially get relief from improvements in road surfaces is probably greater than the number of people who get relief from barriers.

FHWA currently does not recognize porous road surfaces as a solution to the highway noise problem; however, the agency does sponsor Quiet Pavement Pilot Programs to investigate their feasibility (Ferroni, 2007).2 The costs and benefits of porous road surfaces are discussed in Chapter 7.


Noise from construction equipment has been a problem, especially in urban areas, for many years. Typical noise sources include jack hammers, compressors, pile drivers, excavators, electric generators, and various types of construction vehicles. Planning for noise control must start with planning for the project itself, and mitigation techniques include noise reduction at the source, construction of temporary noise barriers, and restriction of operating hours. The Federal Highway Administration has produced the Construction Noise Handbook (FHWA, 2006), which identifies many of the problems with construction noise. One recent example of control of construction noise is work done in connection with the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston (Thalheimer, 2000, 2001). A second example is the recent New York City noise code described in the section below on urban noise. The code contains many limits on construction noise. The regulations have been described by Thalheimer and Shamoon (2007).


Rail systems are a growing component of the transportation system in the United States because of their demonstrated efficiency in energy use for transporting people and goods. As oil becomes more expensive and interest in green economies increases, rail systems can be expected to expand. Commuters are opting for rail transit in urban areas, resulting in higher ridership each year. Amtrak’s portion of intercity trips is growing in both the East Coast and the West Coast corridors. Freight railroads, which have been running at capacity, carry bulk cargo more efficiently than any other transportation mode. As rail transportation increases, an increase in noise exposure in and around transit and railroad facilities can be expected.


Because there have been several recent surveys of noise in New York City, and because a new noise code went into effect in 2007, New York City is often used as an example of the problems associated with dealing with noise in an urban area. The first 10 noise sources in New York City that bother residents were found by Bronzaft and Van Ryzin (2007) to be:

  • car alarms

  • honking horns

  • car stereos or boom cars

  • rowdy passersby or people hanging out

  • neighbors’ activity or voices

  • highway or street traffic

  • sirens from police cars, fire trucks, etc.

  • neighbors’ music, TV, or radio

  • motorcycles

  • construction or repair work

It is difficult to describe many of these sources in terms of an environmental noise metric such as day-night average sound level. Consequently, the extent of noise impact is assessed in terms of the number of complaints received.

On August 17, 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a press conference to discuss the city’s noise code. He said that between June 2004 and August 2005 the city’s government services hotline received 410,000 noise complaints, making noise the number one complaint to the hotline. Online surveys conducted in collaboration with the Council on the Environment of New York City have been used to assess both the sources of urban noise and the number of complaints (Bronzaft and Van Ryzin, 2007). Surveys have focused on behavioral and emotional consequences of neighborhood noise, complaints about noise, specific sources of noise in communities, and general perceptions of neighborhood noise (Bronzaft and Van Ryzin, 2004, 2006). The surveys have shown that New Yorkers are bothered more frequently by noise and are more likely to lodge a complaint about it than respondents to similar surveys in other parts of the country (Bronzaft and Van Ryzin, 2004).

The top noise sources for New Yorkers and people nationwide that were most associated with behavioral and emotional consequences are rowdy passersby, neighbors’ activities or voices, car stereos, car horns, motorcycles, and back-up beeps. NYC residents also report more frequent behavioral and emotional consequences from noise than respondents nationwide; they are more likely to close their windows, have trouble relaxing, lose sleep, and have trouble reading. Similarly, New Yorkers are more likely to feel annoyed, angry, helpless, upset, and tired because of community noise. “These findings should demonstrate to public officials that New Yorkers cannot find the peace and quiet in their homes that they deserve” (Bronzaft and Van Ryzin, 2006).

In response to NYC noise issues, Mayor Bloomberg asked the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to revise the noise code, and on December 29, 2005,


Ferroni, M. FHWA Tire/Pavement Noise Policy and Programs. Presentation at the Workshop on Cost-Benefit Analysis and Transportation Noise, Washington, DC, February 22, 2007.

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