Richmond among Virginia’s loudest cities in new National Transportation Noise map

by | May 22, 2017 | COMMUNITY

For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Transportation has created the National Transportation Noise Map and it’s made that data available to the public. Sure enough, RVA looks loud as hell.

The National Transportation Noise Map data proves what the public probably already knew: the noisiest places in the United States, and more specifically Richmond, are along high ways and near airports.

Because of the map’s source, there should be no surprise as to how it got this info. The map tracks trends in transportation-related noise, solely focusing on highway and aviation noise. The map pulls data from both the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Highway Administration.

The East Coast- especially in the North East- is the nation’s loudest region, fading away into a much quieter Midwest region.

Zooming in on Virginia, Richmond is one of the loudest cities in the state, competing with Washington, D.C., NOVA, and Norfolk (top image).

The map is presented in a-weighted decibels, a measurement of relative loudness in the air as perceived by the human ear.

More than 97 percent of US residents can be exposed to levels lower than 50 decibels, less than 0.1 percent residents have the potential to experience levels reaching around 80 decibels. Richmond’s map has large areas on both sides of the spectrum.

Most of Richmond’s noise levels fall below 50 decibels, which is a sound comparable to a humming refrigerator. The loudest parts of the city are the major highways like 95 and Richmond International Airport, ranking in closer to 80 decibels, comparable to a vacuum cleaner on the low end and a garbage disposal on the higher end.

Downtown Richmond is the loudest part of the city, with the other loudest areas being focused in on the highways and interstates. The decibel level drop moving away from downtown until you reach Richmond International Airport in the city’s east end.

Taking a look at income data, you can also see a kind of inverse correlation between income and proximity to noise. Areas on the outskirts of the city’s West end have the lowest decibel rankings as well as the highest income levels. (seen below via http://www.city-data.com)


Darker colors equal higher incomes – notice the light regions around the East end and RIC

The map represents a “worst-case scenario” and does not take shielding effects into consideration but can serve as model for policy makers when making noise-related decisions like designing infrastructure, conducting research, and creating new policies. The public can also utilize the map when making decisions like relocating to different areas and buying a house.

The map administrators hope to expand the project to also include rail and maritime noise in the future when they update the map on an annual basis.

Lana Ferguson

Lana Ferguson

Lana recently graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in journalism. She served as editor-in-chief for the university newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, her final year there. She is a Mechanicsville native, but her work has taken her all over the United States' Southern region, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Sri Lanka. When Lana's not in the office or on an interview, she's probably with her black lab Cooper, eating local food, or seeking adventure elsewhere.

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