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Carson City traffic noise rattles nerves -- is new sound wall too short?

A view looking north of the existing sound wall along the new stretch of the Carson City freeway near Snyder Lane.

Buffy Ford, her husband and their three horses moved to south Carson City in 2005. The quiet rural neighborhood at East Roland and Ponderosa Street was a perfect fit for their outdoor lifestyle.

They knew the new Carson City freeway was coming. What they didn't know is that the sound wall designed to minimize traffic noise would end right in front of their home.

"The wall stopped, and now there's an open space and we feel that a lot of that noise bounces off the opposing wall and comes in," Ford explained.

She says the noise is impossible to ignore.

"We hear the 'jake' brakes from the trucks, the hard braking, the motorcycles that go by," she told us.

And we heard them too while we were interviewing Ford outside her house.

But officials with the Nevada Department of Transportation say they have measured the noise levels in Ford's neighborhood, and those levels do not meet the threshold required for a sound wall, which is 66 decibels.

While tests show outside decibel levels do reach 91 during peak times, the average during a 24-hour cycle is 57, which the agency considers an acceptable level of noise.

Considering the registered noise levels do peak at 91 decibels, we asked an NDOT official during our interview if she felt the noise from the traffic is excessive.

"Through our monitoring, what we find is it's about in the 50-decibel range. What that means is it's about the average sound you would expect for a suburban neighborhood," said Meg Ragonese, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

Ragonese points out cost is a factor as well.

Soundwall construction can run as high as $2 million per mile of wall. And the agency installed six miles of sound walls as part of the Carson freeway project.

But it raises the question of whether NDOT went far enough to protect the quality of life that neighbors like Buffy Ford have enjoyed for years.

Some now wonder if that effort came up just a little short, stopping right where the sound wall comes to an end in front of several homes, including the Fords'.

"We are just broken hearted because it's changed our lifestyle significantly," Ford said.

NDOT says the plans have always called for that sound wall to end where it does. And they say they will continue to monitor the noise levels in that neighborhood in case things do change.

For now, those residents are stuck with the added traffic noise.

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