Short-term pain worth it for long-awaited South Portland sound wall

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Much has changed in the 50 years since Paul “Andy” Anderson and his wife, Geri, bought their Hall Street home.

It was once so quiet the couple of 62 years couldn’t sleep without the steady hum of traffic they had grown accustomed to on Park Avenue in Portland. Back in 1959, you could walk a short way down a grassy knoll to Long Creek, where a fish or two could still be pulled, and the Maine Mall didn’t exist. 

“Back then, 295 was the price of a cheap pair of pants,” the 88-year-old said Tuesday, a day after his birthday. “There was no Interstate.”

In the years since, he said a proposed Thornton Heights by-pass has grown into Interstate 295, a stretch of road that is now travelled by nearly 40,000 vehicles a day. 

With those vehicles comes the noise.

“If you go up on the roof to do some work, (the noise) would blow you right off the roof,”  he said.

Suffices to say, Anderson is one of several residents along I-295 eager for the state to build a 10- to 20-foot-tall sound wall that will stretch about 3,500 feet from Exit 3 to Exit 4. In fact, he was one of a few residents to lobby the state in 2000 for the wall. He had all but given up on the effort until last year when he heard the state would move forward with – and fund – the $1.5 million plan.

“It’s long overdue,” Anderson said.  

Although the state will not start building the sound wall until October, crews have already cleared away a strip of trees that was the only noise buffer for several residents. Anderson’s single-story blue house is now completely exposed to the Interstate.

But Anderson is not complaining and, apparently, neither is anyone else.

“I’ve been getting a lot less noise complaints now that the trees are gone,” City Councilor Jim Hughes said. 

DOT Project Manager Ernie Martin said Anderson’s home is practically in the state right of way. In fact, a chain-link fence marking that right of way stops at one corner of Anderson’s home and resumes again at the opposite corner. Once the project is complete, Martin said there will be a 10-foot span between the house and sound wall. 

On Tuesday, Martin arrived at Anderson’s home with conceptual designs of the sound wall, which will be designed to look like rectangular stones.

Although their words were barely discernible amid the roar of Interstate traffic, Martin told Anderson that abutting residents are being invited to an Aug. 11 meeting at the South Portland Library on Broadway at 6 p.m. to decide whether the concrete-wood composite wall will be brown or green.  

Anderson, a World War II veteran with four children, 12 grandchildren and a great grandchild, said he is looking forward to the day he can sit outside, in his backyard, and enjoy what he hopes will be a 10-foot wide strip of grass. 

“There’ll still be noise, but it will be more of a murmur than a roar,” he said. “It’s unpleasant at the moment. It’s been noisy, but that wall is going up. And when it does, I expect to be able to use my backyard.” 

For Anderson, the sound wall is a big victory at the end of a series of small spats with DOT officials. 

“Hopefully, we’ll live happily ever after,” he said. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or

Anderson 2.jpgAnderson’s home will be completely exposed to the interstate until a sound wall is completed in November, but he is not complaining. (Billings photo)

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Anderson 1.jpgDepartment of Transportation engineer Ernie Martin, left, shows Hall Street resident Paul “Andy” Anderson conceptual designs for a sound wall that will be built this fall. (Billings photo)