Work on long-awaited freeway sound walls finally is underway in Windsor, much to the delight of residents like Bobbe Clark, whose backyard borders Highway 101.
"It's really going to be nice," said Clark, a part-time Wal-Mart cashier who's lived on Bluebird Court next to the freeway since 1971, enduring the steady din of traffic, punctuated by rumbling tractor-trailers and decibly endowed motorcycles.
Not only will the wall help muffle noise, it "will help with the dust going down," said Clark, who has to vacuum her house on a near daily basis.
Grading and work on the foundation and drainage began in earnest in July, even though the sound wall project apparently has been slowed by a mistake in the color of the walls.
"They're behind a little bit now. They were baking the bricks and they baked in the wrong colors," Town Councilwoman Debora Fudge said Thursday.
She said it was not the design selected by Windsor, because the dark and light gray composition contained too many dark bricks. But rather than delay the project further, the town is accepting it.
"I think we're being gracious to Caltrans to allow a different design because of their mistake," she said. "We don't want them to incur a huge extra cost."
The cost for the sound walls is included in a larger $28.7 million project involving an expanded and redesigned freeway interchange at Airport Boulevard, north of Santa Rosa.
When the sound walls were proposed five years ago, the plan was to extend them much farther along both sides of the road. But Windsor Town Council members objected to the tunnel-like effect it would produce. The length was then reduced following a series of public meetings and comment.
Caltrans officials previously estimated the walls would be in place by late September or early October, but were unable Thursday to verify a completion date.
The sound walls, with clinging vine plantings, will extend intermittently along both sides of the freeway north of Shiloh Road to the central Windsor exit.
To buffer residential subdivisions on the east side of the freeway, 16-foot-high walls will extend more than a half-mile with one gap.
On the west side of the freeway, a 2,240-foot-long sound wall will be built between Highway 101 and Conde Lane, primarily to shield the Windsor Mobile Country Club.
On the west side, the wall will vary from 12 to 16 feet high, according to Caltrans.
"Sound walls will make it much better," said Mark Jefferson, who has lived in the mobile home park for more than six years. He said it will also help protect residents against the occasional errant vehicle.
"About six months ago, a car flew off the freeway and went through one of the yards," he said, adding that the vehicle's occupants were not seriously injured.
Jefferson said the traffic noise doesn't bother him so much during the day. "You hear it mostly at night when you're trying to go to sleep. Your mind kind of wanders. It goes to the freeway," he said.
Patricia Hisey, who lives next door, said she's accustomed to the traffic after 16 years. "It doesn't bother me," she said.
But on the other side of the freeway, on Bluebird Court, Francisca Cisneros welcomed a sound wall. "It's too noisy," she said, adding that when she moved in 13 years ago it seemed especially terrible.