Sound Wall Construction Planned for Spring

Rendering in progress of the planned sound wall along the north side of N.M. 502 south of East Road, between Tewa Loop and Airport Road. Courtesy/LAC

Rendering in progress of the planned sound wall along the north side of N.M. 502 south of East Road, between Tewa Loop and Airport Road. Courtesy/LAC

Shade tolerant landscaping will be planted along the sound wall. Courtesy/LAC

Staff Report

Renderings and a Landscape Plan have been generated for the planned sound wall along the north side of N.M. 502 south of East Road, between Tewa Loop and Airport Road with a budget of $655,000. The renderings and landscape plan were presented at the Jan 9. Transportation Board meeting as part of the monthly staff update.

View copies of the Wall Cross Section and the Wall Profile in addition to a Noise Analysis Update, dated Oct. 8, 2013.

Staff is continuing to work toward a maintenance agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT); however, progress is slow. While records for the area in question are cryptic, staff believes that the current proposed location of the wall resides within the right of way that the N.M. DOT manages. Staff currently anticipates that construction will commence in the spring of 2014.

In order to ensure the best chances of survival for the existing rose bushes, they will be transplanted to the landscaped area east of Airport Road between the road and the airport blast fence and shade tolerant landscaping will be planted in place of the roses.


In the continued effort to address sound concerns raised by the Eastern Area residents between Tewa Loop and Airport Road, staff worked with the N.M. DOT District 5 to have the N.M. 502 speed limits reduced. Staff received the NMDOT’s Speed Limit Declaration Dec. 11, 2012, setting the speed limit between DP Road and just east of Airport Road to be 35 miles per hour. New speed limit signs have been installed.

The sound levels in the Eastern Area will be reduced if the revised speed limits are obeyed. The previous Los Alamos N.M. 502 Noise Study identified, “the noise mitigation strategy is a combined solution of constructing a barrier wall in conjunction with reducing vehicle speed on N.M. 502.” After the speed limit reductions were completed, the consultant took new sound measurements and made recommendations based on the barrier wall being located in the landscaping between N.M. 502 and East Road.

The County’s consultant presented the updated noise analysis findings to neighborhood residents at a public meeting June 11, at the Airport Terminal Building. A copy of the updated noise analysis is available for review. Approximately 17 members of the public participated in the meeting. The consultant’s presentation included Noise Model Results, Decibel Reduction Tables, Noise Wall Layouts, Noise Wall Material Types and a Summary. View the handouts from the meeting.

Of those who indicated a preference for a specific wall type and color, 11 preferred masonry block with a rustic reddish/brown color because it was more residential in appearance over the other proposed wall material types. The consultant’s recommendations are that effective noise mitigation is feasible, 8-feet is the optimal wall height.

Staff verified underground utility locations to discern where the wall can be placed. The best location would be north of N.M. 502, south of the existing rose bushes (rose bushes would be on the residential side of the wall). There is a concern that if the roses are on the south side of the wall (N.M. 502 side) that they may not survive the reflected heat from the wall or if the wall is located south of the roses that the shade caused by the wall would not allow the roses to grow properly. The best option is to relocate the rose bushes to Airport Road.

Public comments from the meeting are summarized in the Noise Analysis Neighborhood Meeting Summary of the June 11, 2013 public meeting. This document addresses most of the concerns and questions raised at the June 11 public meeting. Note that the sign in and comment pages have been removed by the County out of respect for the privacy of attendees. These pages will be made available to anyone who submits a public records request.

A public meeting at 90 percent design completion was held Sept. 18, 2013 in the Airport lobby. The design will be finalized and prepared for bid. At the meeting, renderings of the wall and landscape plans were requested. Also, staff discussed that the County has identified a graffiti prevention product that has been tested and used on the same type of concrete block in White Rock and this product will be applied to this sound wall.

Since the last public meeting, survey work was completed and temporary construction easements have been obtained. Staff has presented the project concept to the Art in Public Places Board with the Board deferring any art consideration until the project is completed. Also, staff has made a request to NMDOT for a maintenance agreement for the sound wall since NMDOT does not want to assume a maintenance obligation for this sound wall, such as graffiti removal.

Finally, because the current design of the sound wall is between eight and nine feet in height in many areas and Code allows a maximum fence/wall height of six feet, a Zoning Code waiver was required and granted by the Board of Adjustment Nov. 4, 2013.