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Noise Barrier Acceptance Criteria: Analysis


September 2013, amended November 2015

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The purpose of this report is to examine the feasibility and reasonableness factors in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) noise regulation in 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 772 as implemented in the individual state highway agency (SHA) noise policies individually and in combination with each other to identify optimized combinations of values. The report specifically addresses the requirements of Tasks 3.1 through 3.5 of the FHWA Task Order No. DTFH61-D-00028-T12-002, 23 CFR 772 Streamlining, Analysis, and Outreach and Task 3 of the FHWA Task Order No. DTFH61-D-00028-0005, 23 CFR 772 Streamlining, Analysis, and Outreach, Phase II.

Content Summary

This report is comprised of the following four chapters:

Interested Audience

The initial report, completed in September 2013, did not contain the information on the Viewpoints reasonableness criterion. That report was prepared for and reviewed by FHWA and the project's Technical Working Group (TWG), first as a draft report and then as an interim report. It addressed comments received from FHWA and the TWG during the review process. This updated version of the report includes the information on the Viewpoints reasonableness criterion. The intended audience includes analysts and policy-makers within FHWA and SHAs who specialize in highway traffic noise and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementation policies, processes and procedures.

Previous Printings

This is the second printing of this report, and includes a new Chapter 4.

Publication Status

The initial report was the first of two Final Task 3 Deliverable Documents under Task Order No. DTFH61-D-00028-T12-002. This revised report is one of two Final Task 3 Deliverable Documents under Task Order No. DTFH61-D-00028-0005.


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

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1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No.

3. Recipient's Catalog No.

4. Title and Subtitle

Noise Barrier Acceptance Criteria: Analysis

5. Report Date : September 2013, amended August 2015

6. Performing Organization Code:

7. Author(s): William Bowlby, PhD, PE, Geoffrey Pratt, PE, and Rennie L. Williamson, Bowlby & Associates, Inc.; Harvey Knauer, PE, Environmental Acoustics, and Kenneth Kaliski, PE, RSG Inc.

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

RSG Inc., White River Junction VT

Bowlby & Associates, Inc., Franklin TN

Environmental Acoustics, Lemoyne PA

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.

DTFH61-11-D-00028-T12-002 and DTFH61-11-D-00028-0005

12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

Office of Planning, Environment and Realty

Washington, DC 20590

13. Type of Report and Period Covered


14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

16. Abstract:

This report examines the feasibility and reasonableness factors in the FHWA noise regulation (23 CFR 772) as implemented in the individual state highway agency noise policies. The first part of the report studies these factors:

  • Feasibility: noise reduction and quantity of impacted receptors achieving that reduction
  • Reasonableness: benefited noise reduction; noise reduction design goal and quantity of benefited receptors achieving that goal; cost effectiveness (allowable cost or barrier area per benefited receptor)

The analysis examines how changes in the permissible ranges for each factor - while the others factors remain static - affect noise abatement decisions. Also examined is how changes to multiple factors in combination affect decisions. The range in potential decisions based on the combinations permitted under the regulation is examined to provide an aid for future policy guidance and planning. A sensitivity analysis on the factors identifies outcomes of possible combinations of factors. Actual highway projects are also used to identify the effects on the likelihood of abatement. The last part of this report analyzes how state highway agencies address the consideration of viewpoints reasonableness criterion in 23 CFR 772. Reported under separate cover is the development of tools to evaluate the effects of policy changes on abatement feasibility and reasonableness.

17. Key Words: FHWA noise regulation, 23 CFR 772, noise barrier, noise abatement, feasibility, reasonableness, noise reduction design goal, cost effectiveness, viewpoints

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification (of this report)


20. Security Classification (of this page)


21. No of Pages


22. Price

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List Of Abbreviations And Acronyms

% 1R, %1

Percentage of first row (impacted or benefited) receptors (see P1)

% ALL, %A

Percentage of all (impacted or benefited) receptors (see PA)




Number (integer)

# 1R

Number of first row

# All

Number of all (impacted or benefited) receptors


Cost (in dollars)


First row


Arizona Department of Transportation


Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department


Area per benefited receptor

APBR calc

Calculated APBR

Ben, BR

Benefited receptor


California Department of Transportation


Cost effectiveness


Code of Federal Regulations


Cost per benefited receptor





dB(A), dBA

Decibel unit for A weighted sound level


Delaware Department of Transportation


Design hour volume


Department of Transportation


Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development


Frequently Asked Questions


Florida Department of Transportation




Federal Highway Administration


FHWA Traffic Noise Model Version 2.5


Illinois Department of Transportation

Leq, Leq(h)

Equivalent sound level in dB(A), one hour Leq


Massachusetts Department of Transportation


Maximum amount (square footage) per benefited receptor


Maryland State Highway Administration


Michigan Department of Transportation


Minnesota Department of Transportation


Noise Abatement Criteria


North Carolina Department of Transportation


Nebraska Department of Roads


National Environmental Policy Act


Noise reduction


Noise reduction design goal


New York State Department of Transportation


Pennsylvania Department of Transportation


Percentage of first row (impacted or benefited) receptors (see % 1R)


Percentage of all (impacted or benefited) receptors (see % ALL)


Reasonable by…


Request for Proposal


State highway agency


Square foot (feet)


Tennessee Department of Transportation


Tennessee Environmental Procedures Manual


FHWA Traffic Noise Model Version 2.5


Technical Working Group


Virginia Department of Transportation


Washington State Department of Transportation

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Updated: 3/16/2016
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