A group of residents in northern Plymouth Township are making themselves heard over the sound of construction noise, as the Northeast Extension is expanded just beyond their backyards.
The construction is part of a repair and road-widening project that looks to turn the Northeast Extension into a six-lane roadway, with a scheduled completion date in 2014. However, residents are saying that the noise is carrying on through the night and disrupting their sleep and health.
"Residents are bombarded with heavy equipment noise all night long, even though the area they chose to work on is easily accessible during the day," said Carolyn Nickels, of the 3100 block of Jolly Road. "This is something that affects our quality of life and our safety as we try to live our lives seriously sleep-deprived."
In addition, Nickels said that she lives with her elderly mother, who is suffering from breast cancer and needs abundant rest.
"The only peace she gets is when she's sleeping," Nickels told NBC10.
In an effort to obtain some relief, residents contacted a number of local government officials, including state senator Daylin Leach. In turn, Leach wrote a letter to PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, requesting that the contractor cease nighttime operations.
"While nobody objects to important turnpike maintenance and improvements, the problem arises from the fact that loud construction is frequently, if not nightly, occurring between… 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.," Leach wrote. "We are simply asking that loud construction stop between the hours of 11 p.m. and sunrise."
Mimi Doyle, public information manager for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), told Patch that the PTC is working with contractor Walsh Construction to come up with possible solutions. However, the PTC's hands are ultimately tied by the contractual agreements with Walsh, Doyle said.
"We can't force the contractor to do something … until we have taken and documented readings that show the noise levels are above allowable decibel levels in the contract," Doyle said.
Doyle described the decibel levels in the contract as "standard," and says the PTC conducted noise studies in 2007 to get a feel for general levels and to determine the placement of sound barriers. In addition, Doyle says that out of about two hundred residents signed up for weekly updates on the project, only a handful have had any complaints.
Nickels told Patch that she filed a Right-to-Know requests with the PTC to obtain the sound stipulation in the commission's contract with Walsh, but has yet to receive it. A response letter from Lynn Freeman, open records officer for the PTC, said the commission will require 30 extra days past the usual five day response time because the request is under legal review and due to "bona fide staffing limitations."
Regardless of whether or not current decibel levels exceed what is allowed by the contract, Doyle says the PTC is working with Walsh to come up with possible solutions.
"We had a meeting [late last week], and we do feel we are going to be able to come to some agreement," Doyle said, without naming specifics. "We have some ideas about how we may limit some of the issues."
In its most recent update to residents, the PTC said the turnpike is still scheduled for day and night construction near Jolly Road this week. Whether it's any quieter, and whether or not local residents get any more sleep, remains to be seen.
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