Crumbling sound walls must come down before they fail

Four sections of sound walls next to busy Calgary roads will be tumbling down this month.

Temporary fix in offing until city finds cash to replace four wall sections in poor condition

Crumbling sound walls, like this one along Glenmore Trail, are causing headaches for city council members, who must allocate millions in funding to replace them. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Four sections of sound walls next to busy Calgary roads will be tumbling down this month.

Inspections found the concrete walls are in poor condition so they'll be removed by the city before they actually fail.

What isn't known is how long it will take to replace them.

The four sections are located at:

  • southeast corner of 14 Street and Southland Drive S.W. (70 metres).
  • east side of 14 Street S.W. between Glenmore Trail and 75 Avenue (255 metres).
  • Crowchild Trail S.W. between 22 Street and 22A Street (140 metres).
  • Crowchild Trail S.W. between 24 Street and Richmond Road (50 metres).

An official with the city's roads department, Chris McGeachy, said the four sections will be taken down by the end of December.

At each of those sections, the city is planning to install temporary chain link fences or post-and-cable fences to keep people away from the openings.

"Instead of just changing out a section, we actually replace the entire wall from endpoint to endpoint. As part of that, we need to allot capital budget to that and that's not one of our regular programs," said McGeachy.

All of the walls, which date back to the 1980s or 1990s, are near the end of their life cycle.

McGeachy said new walls are built differently and now come with the expectation they'll last 50 years.

Councillor suggests tapping reserves

During city council's budget deliberations in November, Coun. Jeromy Farkas suggested the city take $4 million from a reserve fund to pay for new walls.

However, council voted to refer the matter to December's meeting of council's transportation and transit committee. 

Farkas said the delay could mean that citizens who live near the soon to be demolished walls will notice an increase in traffic noise.

"I'm pushing for an immediate like-for-like replacement," said Farkas.

"It doesn't make sense to demolish the sound walls, put up a chain link fence and then come back in a few weeks or months to take down the chain link fence and then put up a new wall."

He's proposing the city temporarily shore up the walls or fence them off to keep people away from them until the money is found to built new barriers. Then the city could tear them down and replace them with new barriers.

"It's possible that certain citizens might actually have to be waiting for many months or potentially years if council doesn't make the decision to replace the sound walls," said Farkas.

The city says sound measurements will be taken before the walls are removed.

"We do encourage if there are adjacent residents noticing big changes to contact 311 and let us know as soon as possible," said McGeachy.


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