Meet Our Readers: Ken Polcak, Noise Abatement Design & Analysis Team Leader

What other factors go into the acoustical design of noise barriers?

Factors that must be considered include current and future levels, which will dictate required effectiveness (noise reduction), site topography, actual land uses and types of receptors.  What kinds of impact assessment do you do? How does that work?

Impact assessment considers two factors: actual level, relative to the FHWA impact thresholds, and increase in noise level over existing levels resulting from a proposed project.

What are you able to do with the data you collect on transportation noise analysis?

A sound level meter tests the effectiveness of a highway noise barrier.
A sound level meter tests the effectiveness of a highway noise barrier.

Acoustic data collection serves two purposes; one as baseline information for impact assessment, and responding to citizen inquiries or complaints, and two as a method to validate the computer models.

What technologies and tools do you most frequently use?

For measurement, sound level meters are used to obtain existing noise levels.  How do you ensure that you have accurate data input and accurate computer models?

If we have a candidate area that we’re looking to assess, either just for noise impact or an actual noise barrier design study, the first aspect is to go out and physically measure the noise level at various locations, and at the same time, document environmental conditions that exist simultaneously with your measurement. You have to do classified counts of the traffic that’s going by as you do your measurements, documenting its speed, and hopefully you have reasonably neutral environmental conditions — Any other challenges?

Obtaining accurate and complete data inputs for the computer models.   —

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