600-Foot Mulch Wall Decreases Noise, Air Pollution in West Long Beach

Calling it the end of an injustice, 7th District Councilmember James Johnson joined Mayor Bob Foster on Tuesday in announcing the completion of a much-needed sound barrier made entirely of mulch on the west end of Hudson Park in West Long Beach.

Noting that it is the only community in Southern California that lacks a sound barrier alongside a freeway, Johnson was emphatic that the 600-foot-long mulch wall–the first of its kind in the United States–was innovative not just in its cost-effectiveness, but in the fact that it will actually help air quality in addition to decreasing noise pollution.

“Traditional sound barriers do nothing for air quality,” Johnson said, referring to sound-abatement walls typically constructed of steel, concrete, plastics or composites. “However, this wall will take in pollution [from the 710] and feed oxygen back into this community.”

The 12-foot-by-3-foot wall was made from mulch collected by the City’s tree-trimming program and cost $150,000 to build.

Though the use of mulch specifically is a first–the City built a smaller version of the wall back in February of 2012 to demonstrate feasibility, followed by construction of the current wall a year later–the idea of eco-friendly sound barriers is not new and the trend is increasing both across the state and nation. 

A study in Atmospheric Environment in 2009 brought forth a major discussion about how sound barriers can also block pollution based upon the channel flow created by barriers. 

CalTrans even commissioned a report (below) in 2010 in conjunction with the Danish Road Directorate/Danish Road Institute to examine not just more aesthetically pleasing sound barriers, but greener ones as well.

“Noise screening,” the report said, “[can] visually and physically divide the town and prevent communication between the various districts. If thoughtfully planned, noise barriers and embankments can create visually attractive and functional urban spaces. Various strategies for the adaptation of noise barriers and embankments to urban and rural surroundings can be used. One strategy is the planting of trees and other vegetation so that the noise barrier fits in with its surroundings.”

The wall was paid for by the Port of Long Beach as it now protects Westside residents from truck traffic on the Terminal Island Freeway.

“This is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to remedy a situation that should have been corrected long ago,” Johnson said when the Harbor Board of Commissioners approved funds for the project in February. “Today, an injustice has ended,” he added Tuesday.

Read more:

Noise Barrier Design: Dutch & Some European Examples

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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