National Transportation Noise Mapping Tool (Volpe image)

DOT maps transportation-related noise

Communities asking for a noise barrier to muffle highway sounds or lessen noise from airports will soon have data to document their concerns.

The Department of Transportation’s pulls data from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration into a GIS program to show noise levels from traffic and aviation across the country.

High-decibel areas are shown in bright purple, with less-intense noise lighting up as pink, orange and yellow (in descending order). DOT expects this data will be valuable to city planners in making transportation decisions, but it said it should be used for assessing trends, not impacts.

The data allows people to do their own analysis, according to Meghan Ahearn, a scientist with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

“The goal of this tool is to get a sense for trends in noise exposure over years,” Ahearn said. “So if we were to have quieter transportation sources or other mitigation techniques, you could directly see the effect of that.”

The department plans to release more noise maps in the future after this successful first deployment.

“Being able to see the modes together is also exciting,” Ahearn said. “The public typically only sees these data individually, and now we’ll see how these interdependent data sets will present a more comprehensive picture.”

The National Transportation Noise Map is an addition to the National Transportation Atlas Database, a set of nationwide geographic databases of transportation facilities, networks and associated infrastructure available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics Geospatial Data Catalog.

The layers will be updated on an annual basis, DOT said, and future versions of the noise map are expected to include additional transportation noise sources, such as rail and maritime.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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