Noise Barrier Retrofit program
2021 Program update
There is currently no funding allocated for retrofit construction. All locations that exceed The City's Design Noise Level criteria will remain on the project list and will be reprioritized once funding becomes available.
Transportation noise is part of our daily life. The City of Calgary is committed to reducing the impact of such noise sources in residential areas through the Noise Barrier Retrofit program, as guided by the Surface Transportation Noise Policy.
As part of the planning process in Calgary, residential areas are examined to determine whether there is an existing or potential noise problem in outdoor leisure areas around the home.
We work with developers to determine future surface transportation noise in residential areas along skeletal roads, arterial streets and parkways. If excessive noise is identified, steps are taken to reduce it by constructing a noise wall or berm.
We set priorities for construction of noise barriers in older communities. The construction of barriers under this program is subject to the availability of funds, individual/community requests, and technical and economic feasibility. Priorities are reviewed on an ongoing basis under the Noise Barrier Retrofit program.
If you have a noise barrier request, would like to make modifications to an existing noise barrier or have a traffic noise measurement request, please complete and submit the Noise Barrier request form.
Surface Transportation Noise Policy
The policy prescribes the conditions under which noise barriers are constructed adjacent to residential properties using guidelines established by the federal government. Under the policy, sound attenuation walls/noise barriers are constructed in three ways:
- Built by a new subdivision developer at the time the development occurs, if it has been deemed necessary.
- Built when The City upgrades a roadway next to an existing residential development when it is deemed necessary.
- Existing residential areas can petition The City under the Noise Barrier Retrofit program.
The policy provides for relief in cases where traffic noise is excessive. The policy only deals with noise generated from typical traffic passing by a location. It does not deal with noise sources such as aircraft noise, engine retarder braking or construction activities.
A noise barrier will make a significant difference to the noise level. A noise barrier can achieve a 5 decibels noise level reduction when it is tall enough to break the line-of-sight from the roadway to the receiver location. After it breaks the line-of-sight, it can achieve 1.5 decibels of additional noise level reduction for each metre of barrier height.
My existing wooden property fence has gaps in it. How good is this for sound attenuation of traffic noise?
The existing fence may just be a boundary or screen fence. A higher level of sound protection is achieved when fences have no gaps.
Noise Barrier Retrofit program
Council typically allocates $900,000 per year for construction under the program. This is normally enough to construct concrete walls at one to two locations each year, depending on the height and length of wall needed at each location. At this time, the Noise Barrier Retrofit program is not funded.
If I complete a Traffic Noise Investigation Request Form, how long will it take before a wall is constructed?
The Noise Barrier Retrofit program list is usually updated every three years. Any requests that are found to be eligible under the program will become candidate projects. Noise barriers are constructed at the highest priority locations when funding is available.
Noise barrier retrofit projects are placed on tender and the type of wall is determined by the contractor building the wall.
Qualifying for the Noise Barrier Retrofit program
To become a candidate for the Noise Barrier Retrofit program list, the location must be in an existing residential area directly adjacent to a skeletal road, arterial street or parkway, as defined by The City of Calgary's Roadway Classification map. It must also be site tested to determine whether the existing noise level meets the criteria in The City's Surface Transportation Noise policy. The program has a limited budget that determines how many candidate projects can be completed in a year. Currently, the program is not funded.
As of 2021, there are 10 projects on the priority list. Although the program is currently unfunded, we will continue to maintain the priority list for future consideration.
Candidate locations are ranked according to the expected benefit/cost ratio of the project. Factors that are taken into consideration include:
- The severity of the noise problem
- The amount of noise reduction
- The cost of the project
- The number of residential units that will benefit
The benefit/cost ratio is a consistent formula for evaluating and prioritizing candidate locations. The highest ranking goes to the location with the highest benefit/cost ratio.
At some locations, it may not be feasible to construct a barrier due to physical restrictions and/or the cost of construction. Additionally, a noise barrier may not significantly reduce the noise level in all cases.
How many decibels does the noise level have to register for a location to be eligible for consideration of a noise barrier?
If the roadway is a non-truck route, the traffic noise level must exceed 60 decibels, based on a 24-hour average. If the roadway is a truck route, the traffic noise level must exceed 65 decibels, based on a peak hour noise level.
For truck routes, noise levels are measured at a height of 1.5m above the ground for standard lots (3m from the house) or 1.0m above the center of the main floor deck for walk-out style lots (after 1996).
For non-truck routes, noise levels are measured at a height of 1.5m above the ground (3m from the house).
Any property owner who thinks they have a noise problem can apply for the Noise Barrier Retrofit program.
A noise barrier can only be constructed under the program if two-thirds of the directly impacted property owners support the project. The initial complaint must be accompanied by a list of homeowners who support the request. Once on the Noise Barrier Retrofit program list, further evaluations and prioritization take place. A final poll of the homeowners is taken before actual construction, and again, two-thirds support must be obtained before the construction can go ahead.