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Noise

Any increase or decrease in noise caused by a transportation improvement project has an economic value.

Examples

  • A new onramp is added to a freeway, increasing noise around the onramp.
  • An airport changes its flight paths, creating more flyovers in a residential neighborhood.
  • A sound wall is built between a busy street and a residential neighborhood to reduce noise in the neighborhood.

Approach

  • Estimate how much noise there will be at each affected location for each project alternative compared to the base case.
  • If the amount of noise is high, consider whether noise abatement measures are needed.
  • Determine the cost of noise abatement, and include it in the cost of the corresponding alternatives.
  • Determine the value of the net change in noise levels for each project alternative (after any noise mitigation measures are taken). If noise is significantly decreased or increased, its net value is included as a benefit (or disbenefit).  

Traffic noise is more than a nuisance. Researchers have found that traffic noise can impair people's hearing, increase stress, disturb sleep, and contribute to ill health, and so tends to reduce the value of nearby homes. Recent studies indicate that traffic noise costs are significant (WHO 2010).

When a transportation project has the potential to add significant amounts of traffic to an area, a traffic noise analysis may be required to determine the project's noise impact. If the impact is significant, the costs of noise abatement measures, such as sound walls, may need to be included as part of the cost-benefit analysis.

It is difficult to assign a dollar value to noise impacts, and the difference in noise between project alternatives may be small. For most projects, it is sufficient to estimate how much noise there will be when the project is complete, choose appropriate abatement methods, and include the cost of abatement in the cost of the project.

For very large projects that drastically increase noise (such as a new freeway built in a residential neighborhood) or reduce noise (such as construction of a sound wall), it may be appropriate to use a hedonic price model or a contingent valuation study.  

Information Resources

N. Becker and D. Lavee (2003), "The Benefits and Costs of Noise Reduction," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 46(1), pp. 97-111.

B. T. Berglund, T. Lindvall, and D. H. Schwela (2002), Guidelines for Community Noise. World Health Organization.

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). "Some Frequently Asked Questions About Highway Traffic Noise Analysis & Abatement,"  at: www.dot.ca.gov/hq/env/noise/pub/FAQ.pdf.

Federal Highway Administration (1995), Highway Traffic Noise Analysis and Abatement Policy and Guidance. Federal Highway Administration Office of Environment and Planning, Noise and Air Quality Branch; at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/polguid.pdf.

Todd Litman (2010), "Noise Costs," Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/tca/tca0511.pdf.

M. Maibach, et al. (2008), Handbook on Estimation of External Cost in the Transport Sector, CE Delft (www.ce.nl); at http://ec.europa.eu/transport/costs/handbook/doc/2008_01_15_handbook_external_cost_en.pdf

Matthew McCallum-Clark, Rochelle Hardy and Malcolm Hunt (2006), Transportation and Noise: Land Use Planning Options for a Quieter New Zealand, Land Transport New Zealand Research Report 299 (www.ltsa.govt.nz); at www.ltsa.govt.nz/research/reports/299.pdf.

Paul Schomer (2001), "Assessment of Noise Annoyance." Schomer and Associates. Available at: http://www.nonoise.org/library/schomer/assessmentofnoiseannoyance.pdf.

SUTP (2011), Noise and Its Abatement, Module 5c Noise, Sustainable Urban Transport Project (www.sutp.org); at www.sutp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2819

WHO (2010), Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise: Quantification of Healthy Life Years Lost in Europe, The World Health Organization (www.euro.who.int); at www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/136466/e94888.pdf.