Roadway Noise Abatement Policy

In April 2011 the Scottsdale City Council adopted the Roadway Noise Abatement Policy  (PDF). The policy defines specific conditions for when noise abatement solutions, such as vegetation or a wall, are to be included in roadway corridor improvement projects. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the policy.

Roadway corridor improvements sometimes result in increased noise for nearby residences, churches, schools or other noise-sensitive areas. The policy defines specific criteria to determine when noise abatement is warranted by the city and helps ensure that the city is consistent in its response to residents. The policy also defines specific design standards and spending caps for noise abatement solutions.

The Transportation Commission reviewed existing policies from other cities, communities and the Arizona Department of Transportation; solicited public input from the Scottsdale community; and consulted with the Scottsdale Police Department. The commission then made policy recommendations to the City Council for adoption.

Yes. The roadway noise abatement policy stipulates that the city will complete a noise study for any roadway project that increases traffic capacity, such as by adding travel lanes, adding turn lanes at three or more intersections or limiting turn movements by 20% or more (such as with medians). The city will also conduct a noise study when a project realigns a road in such a way that it moves it closer to a noise sensitive use, such as a residence, park or school.

Noise levels in noise sensitive areas, such as neighborhoods, are at least 64 decibels, which is the same level as the Arizona Department of Transportation and is 3 decibels lower than the Federal Highway Administration minimum requirement.

Projected noise levels exceed existing noise levels by at least 15 decibels and are at least 58 decibels.

The city contracts a noise specialist to conduct a noise study to see if the specific criteria are met. The firm will follow practices and procedures, including modeling, accepted by federal and state transportation agencies to assess noise levels.

The policy excludes noise from stationary sources, such as barking dogs or live entertainment, and from single point sources, such as loud mufflers or car stereos, when determining whether noise abatement is warranted.

The city will attempt to come up with a solution that reduces noise levels by at least 5 decibels and reduces noise to below the 64-decibel threshold. Noise barriers might include vegetation, berms, or walls, or a combination of these. Alternatives to walls are preferred as they are the least likely to conflict with other city policies and practices, such as the Scenic Corridor Design Guidelines, the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO) and the Foothills Overlay (F-O) zoning district.

Yes, vehicle safety, aesthetics, security, drainage, financial feasibility and emergency vehicle access will be considered when evaluating noise abatement solutions.

The city performed a noise study comparing rubberized and conventional asphalt and determined that there were no noticeable differences in noise abatement. Because rubberized asphalt costs significantly more than conventional asphalt and deteriorates approximately twice as fast, Scottsdale no longer uses it.

Noise sensitive land uses include, for example, residences, schools, parks, hotels/motels, churches, libraries and public auditoriums.

The city generally followed Arizona Department of Transportation policies to determine when noise abatement was warranted.

Sometimes it’s possible for a neighborhood/resident to pay for and implement a noise abatement solution. Any solution would be required to comply with all city policies and practices, such as the Scenic Corridor Design Guidelines, the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO) and the Foothills Overlay (F-O) zoning district mentioned above. Whether the noise abatement solution would be on private property or public right of way would also be taken into consideration. Walls are generally discouraged along roadways as they interfere with corridor views and disrupt the open rural character established in many areas. Such a process would also require public input, approval by the neighborhood(s) affected and coordination with current city planning and development in the area. For more information, contact the One Stop Shop.

Contact Information

City of Scottsdale - Transportation 
7447 E. Indian School Rd., Suite 205 
Scottsdale, AZ 85251  
P: 480-312-7250
TDD: 480-312-5419
F:  480-312-4000

Traffic Engineering
P: 480-312-7250

Street Operations
P: 480-312-5620

Traffic Management Center 
P: 480-312-7777 (6 a.m. - 6 p.m. weekdays)
scottsdaletmc@scottsdaleaz.gov
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