Case studiesAn interesting early case where two of the leading models were pitted against each other involved a proposed widening of the New Jersey Turnpike from six to twelve lanes. The BBN and ESL models were on opposing sides of a matter decided in New Jersey Superior Court. This case in the early 1970s was one of the first U.S. examples of acoustical scientists playing a role in the design of a major highway. The models allowed the court to understand the effects of roadway geometry (width in this case), vehicle speeds, proposed noise barriers, residential setback and pavement types. The outcome was a compromise that involved substantial mitigation of noise pollution impacts.
Another early case involved the proposed extension of Interstate 66 through Arlington, Virginia. The plaintiff, Arlington Coalition on Transportation sued the Virginia Department of Transportation on the grounds of air quality, noise and neighborhood disruption. To analyze roadway noise, the ESL model was used by the plaintiff, who won this case partially due to the credibility of the computer model. The matter was revisited a decade later and a greatly reduced highway design with transit element and extensive noise mitigation was agreed to.
Later cases have occurred in every state, both in contentious actions and in routine highway planning and design. The public as well as governmental agencies have become aware of the value of acoustical science to provide useful insights to the roadway design process.