When Carla Rowe and her family moved to Jackson Street two years ago, they knew what they were getting into. Their home is located adjacent to Highway 1 and the constant traffic created background noise.
Fortunately a large row of trees acted as both a sound and visual barrier, making it a more pleasant neighbourhood.
Two weeks ago, the trees came down.
The construction of a third lane, part of the new McCallum Road interchange, required the trees to be removed in order to widen the highway and construct a retaining wall. Now the only thing separating thousands of cars rushing by from a row of homes is a chain-link fence.
And the noise has suddenly become a major concern.
“It’s unbelievable. We’ve lost our peace and quiet, we’ve lost our privacy – it’s like sleeping with the windows wide open,” said Rowe about the sudden increase in traffic noise. On her front porch, she has to raise her voice to make herself heard.
When her family initially moved into the home, the first thing they did was replace all the windows to create a better sound barrier.
“Now we’re back to square one. It’s louder than ever before … It’s not white noise anymore,” she said, yelling to be heard over a passing semi truck.
But it’s not just the noise. The highway can now be clearly seen, and looms above the homes.
“Now you see the traffic, you catch the motion in the corner of your eye and wonder what is that coming into my house.”
But the noise doesn’t just affect homes directly beside the road. Three houses down the street, Victor Gent and Laurie Breen are suffering as well.
“The noise is phenomenal. I can’t sleep,” said Gent who has lived there for four years.
“We can sit in our yard and watch the traffic drive past on the freeway,” said Breen.
Despite the warmer weather, the couple doesn’t dare open their windows at night.
“It’s noisy and dusty. It’s just not right,” said Breen.
Gent said the change has dropped the value of their home by between $30,000 and $40,000.
Perhaps hardest hit by the removal of the trees is a family with a son who suffers from both autism and epilepsy. While they wished to remain anonymous, the family said they are facing some big concerns.
They moved to the neighbourhood because it was close to the hospital. Their son suffers from seizures, the last one so bad he spent three months in Royal Columbian Hospital.
To prevent the seizures, he needs rest and proper sleep. They have tried earplugs, but they tend to fall out during the night. The noise has become so bad, that they have been forced to check into a motel for the past few nights.
“It’s destroying our lives,” they told The News.
They want a sound barrier installed, preferably an eight-foot wall, and new trees planted.
The neighbours have banded together and met with the project co-ordinator to express their concerns.
It is not clear what action, if any, will be taken to help them.
“They are working on finding some solutions,” said Art Kastelein, from the City of Abbotsford.
The creation of a sound barrier would be the decision of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and not the city.
“We are working with the ministry to see if this situation meets the criteria (for a barrier),” said Kastelein.
He is hopeful they will have an answer within the week. If it does not meet the provincial criteria, Kastelein said they might have to look at other options, including planting new, fast-growing trees.