|Vail still trying to
Some in town still think freeway should be
buried or put in a tunnel
Jamie Wilson holds a device that
measures sound decibles while Tom Kassmel talks a bout ways
people can cut down on the noise entering thei homes.
Preston Utley/Vail Daily
September 8, 2006
VAIL — Like a dieter trying to cut calories, Tom
Kassmel searched the house for ways to trim a decibel of interstate
noise here and there.
He started with the door. It was thick and sturdy.
“The heavier the door, the better,” he said. “Solid wood is good.”
He looked closely for any small cracks or joints in the door,
switching off the lights to see if any light from outside was coming
through. It looked pretty airtight. Again, good.
“If you can see light coming in through the door jamb, you should add
some additional weather stripping,” he said.
Kassmel, the town engineer, was conducting a noise audit for a home
perched above Interstate 70 in West Vail. Hankard Environmental, a
noise specialist that works with the town, will do free audits
Wednesday. After that, the town staff will conduct them by request.
Noise from I-70, which slices through the center of Vail, is a
perennial issue in town. For homes near the freeway, the noise can
measure 70 decibels with the windows open. In comparison, an amplified
rock band measures 115 decibels, a normal conversation at 6 feet
measures 60 decibels and human breathing measures about 10 decibels.
Small steps to improve soundproofing in homes can reduce noise by 3
decibels — the smallest amount that’s perceptible to the human ear.
Michael Hankard of Hankard Environmental said any project that reduces
noise by 5 decibels or more makes a soundproofing project worthwhile.
Especially with older homes, new windows and doors can make a
difference in noise levels, Kassmel said.
Often, the more energy efficient a door or window, the more noise
efficient it is, Kassmel said. An improvement in energy rating can cut
down the noise, he said.
The home had double-pane windows, which is good for cutting down
noise, Kassmel said. Special windows have “sound transmission class,”
or STC, ratings that block noise.
For some homes, it might be a good step to put in a second layer of
drywall on the wall that’s facing the interstate, Kassmel said.
Burying costs billions
| Noise audits
|Hankard Environmental, a company that
consults the town of Vail on noise, will conduct free noise
audits for residents from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday. Call
Town of Vail Project Engineer Chad Salli at 479-2169 to
schedule an appointment.
Greg Hall, director of Vail Public Works, said the
audits are a way to reach out to residents to help with the problem,
even if larger, multi-agency solutions may not be coming together
“How can we help residents, because obviously building noise walls
take a long time to get approvals,” he said.
Several noise-reduction projects are already happening or are on the
horizon. In East Vail, the Colorado Department of Transportation is
building sand berms that block noise. But there’s no space for berms
in West Vail.
Also, the state plans to pave the interstate with quieter asphalt in
2008 or 2009. The same asphalt is currently being laid on I-70 at
A third effort is the town’s “65 Max” program, which includes more
patrolling by police officers and more signs to reduce the speed of
The town is also trying to make sure noise reduction efforts are
included in the state’s long-range plan for I-70, which is currently
under review. Efforts to lobby the state and the Federal Highway
Administration for funding are ongoing, Hall said.
Vail councilman Greg Moffet, a steadfast advocate for noise reduction,
said the noise audits won’t help enough.
“It’s a failure on our part that we’re asking people to engage in this
exercise,” he said. “We’re trying to kill an elephant with a pea
The message shouldn’t be to soundproof your home and turn on the air
conditioner during the summer, Moffet said.
“You ought to be able to sleep with your windows open,” he said.
The sand berms are helping in East Vail, and the 65 Max program is
reducing noise from trucks’ jake brakes, Moffet said.
Moffet said the solution might be sinking the interstate and covering
it or tunneling through Vail Mountain, two options that have been
explored by Vail Village Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim
Lamont. Both have price tags in the billions.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or