The Factors Affecting Traffic Noise

How more than pavement surface affects the noise from traffic, and what can be done about it.

We already know that certain types of pavement can decrease traffic noise. But how exactly does it work? What are the effects on the people and environment when traffic makes a huge amount of noise in an area?

One of the most common forms of noise pollution in the US is highway and traffic noise on pavement. There are many costly ways to mitigate it, such as sound barriers. Using a different grade of pavement can also help. Rather than the types of pavement that can help reduce noise, we are going to analyze how the “grind” or texture of the pavement can reduce it, and what the benefits are, especially on highways.

Why is pavement noise important?

Pollution comes into our lives in many ways these days. There is air pollution in every big city. It is especially common in industrial areas where factories belch out smoke, whether in cities or not. Water pollution is another factor in most people’s lives. Anyone who lives in an agricultural area in the US is familiar with the copious amounts of water pollution that wind up in riverways thanks to industrial farming systems. Nowadays, microplastics are also to be found everywhere. Plastic doesn’t break down like other molecules. Instead, it becomes tinier and tiner, until it is microscopic, from which it can get into food, water supplies, and more.

However, one of the most common and annoying forms of pollution that people have to deal with is noise. Noise pollution is a surprisingly big deal. While it may not seem like a serious issue, its serious effects are many. On top of that, little is done about noise pollution, as highways are getting bigger and roadways are continuing to get built everywhere.

What is the effect of pavement noise on people?

According to an Acousticstoday.org study, more than 45 million Americans live within 300 feet of a major transportation facility. These facilities also include large highways that contribute to noise. In addition to interference with daily activities such as speech, the noise has been shown to have adverse health effects.

Health effects

Health effects of overly loud pavement noise include the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Cognitive impairment in children

The World Health Organization concluded that at least 1 million healthy life years are lost in Western Europe each year due to the effects of pavement noise on the population there.

This is only the effect on people, not also the effect on wildlife and the nearby environment.

What effects pavement noise?

Besides the obvious creation of it from tires on the asphalt paving, there are several other important factors.

Vehicles

  • Vehicle type. Four-seat cars are the most common, but of course large shipping trucks and other vehicles alsoe contribute to highway noise pollution.
  • Vehicle volume. The sheer amount of vehicles on the road makes a huge difference.
  • Highways are louder because the faster one goes, the more noise a vehicle makes.
  • Pavement type. The grind/course of the pavement makes a big difference as well.

Sound propogation

  • Site geometry. Echoes of nearby buildings, walls, and more can worsen or dampen pavement noise.
  • Ever wondered what those walls by the side of the highway are for? They are to decrease the noise to nearby communities.
  • Ground effects. The landscape can increase or decrease car noise on the asphalt.
  • Again, differences in the air and weather can also improve or worsen pavement noise.

Receivers of sound

  • Human reception. If a highway is going through a desert, there aren’t people to hear it nearby, so pavement noise is much less of a problem.
  • Wildlife and the environment. This noise can seriously disrupt the nearby ecology.

Read this long form study on pavement noise, to learn more about what affects asphalt paving/vehicle noise.

 

Tire contact with pavement is the biggest contributor to pavement noise

No, it’s not the sound of horns honking on car engines, but the sound of tires making contact with pavement that is the biggest factor in creating road noise on highways. Roads are paved in different ways, on low-speed streets, it matters less because the cars and pavement simply aren’t as moving as fast in relation to one another. What about highways though?

There are 3 types of common surface textures for pavement

According to a technical study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the following pavement courses (textures) are the most common:

Transverse tine

This is created by dragging a metal rake sideways across pavement. It was discontinued in the 1980s due to the noise levels.

Burlap drag

Used for lower speed streets and roads. This is made by dragging a moistened burlap sack over the pavement surface. This is less important because it is not used on highways.

Diamond grind

Diamond coated saw blades are used to saw off small irregularities in the pavement surface. They also create grooves in the surface for traction. This method was originally developed to improve car handling on aging pavement, but it was discovered to significantly decrease noise levels as well.

Ultimately, it was discovered that the innovative diamond grind was far more effective at not only rejeuvenating old roadways for better car handling, but also for reducing highway noise.

So what have we learned?

We’ve learned that pavement can make a big impact on the noise coming from traffic. Not only that, but the environment and buildings in the area do as well. If you want to decrease your pavement noise, or figure out what you can do to make your place of business or home less bothered by a nearby roadway, let us know.

Reliable Paving is an experienced and professional group of paving contractors who are thrilled to help you in your paving needs. Do you need repairs, restriping, or new pavement? Maybe you just want to learn how to decrease noise and make your place of work more peaceful? Either way, we are ready to help you, we have the experience, team size, and skills to make your asphalt-related goals a reality.