Atlanta lawmakers are amplifying Mozley Park residents’ demands for a noise barrier to be built along Interstate 20 to silence noise pollution from traffic in majority-Black parts of the city.
The Atlanta City Council unanimously supported a resolution on Monday that urges state and federal regulators to build a noise barrier along the stretch of I-20 that runs east and west through Mozley Park, Westview, West End, and Mechanicsville in southwest Atlanta.
The decades-old highway was originally designed as a dividing line between southside Black communities and their white northside neighbors and has “compounded health challenges in today’s Black communities,” the legislation notes.
“All efforts should be made to reverse this history and reduce the negative damage from the highways,” the resolution reads. “The installation of noise barriers alongside our residential communities would be a momentous first step towards reversing this damage.”
City Council member Jason Dozier, one of the measure’s co-authors, said the municipal legislative body doesn’t have the authority to legally require a noise barrier be built. Interstate highways are funded by the Federal Highway Administration and are owned and managed by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“It is a resolution that urges the institutions that do have regulatory power to make the necessary changes to make this happen,” Dozier said Wednesday after the City Council’s transportation committee voted to advance the legislation to the full council. “What it really does is say that, from the city of Atlanta, this is something that we’re asking for.”
GDOT declined to comment on the resolution, while noting that the law bars it from using taxpayer dollars to build a noise barrier along an interstate in Georgia unless construction to increase the highway’s vehicle capacity has been authorized.
Dozier noted that historically white neighborhoods on Atlanta’s north and east sides have had noise barriers installed as part of I-20 infrastructure projects, but that majority Black southwest Atlanta neighborhoods in his district, which includes Mozley Park, still haven’t.
“We’re stuck with a chain-link fence that oftentimes isn’t repaired in a timely manner,” Dozier told Capital B Atlanta on Wednesday.
Mozley Park resident Keith Palmer praised the City Council for taking action.
“I feel good about it,” he said. The city “seems to be on board with the idea.”
Palmer is a co-founding member of the Five Mile Project, a grassroots group working to get a noise barrier built along I-20 in Mozley Park. He and other members have spent the past 2½ years trying and failing to get GDOT to take action.
“Let’s hope we can make something happen, get something done,” he said.
Palmer helped Dozier and other elected leaders get an earful of Mozley Park’s noise during a Sept. 13 neighborhood walkthrough last month when the sound of vehicles zooming through the area reached 91 decibels around rush hour, loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss over an extended period of time, according to the American Academy of Audiology.
State Rep. Mesha Mainor, who also participated in the Sept. 13 walkthrough, has been working with Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to get an I-20 noise study done in Mozley Park as a first step to eventually getting a noise barrier built.
“Sometimes you have to do a study to know exactly how much it will cost,” she said last week. “They are also looking at bringing in the Federal Highway Agency to see what resources are available there.”