Missoula’s first sound barrier goes up along Van Buren interchange on I-90

Crews install the first panel in a sound barrier along Interstate 90 at Van Buren in Missoula on Tuesday. The sound barrier is the first of its kind in the Garden City. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

Construction crews began installing a sound barrier between Interstate 90 and the lower Rattlesnake neighborhood on Monday, hoisting several concrete panels in place as the larger $10.3 million Van Buren interchange project advances.

The decorative panels, precast in Missoula, are intended to deaden sound along the north side of the interstate corridor as it passes by the lower Rattlesnake neighborhood.

“The sound wall is the first of its kind we’re installing in the Missoula area,” said Donny Pfeifer, a construction engineer with the Montana Department of Transportation. “It’s here to block the noise between I-90 and the Rattlesnake neighborhood. The whole mouth of the Rattlesnake will have this sound wall when it’s completed.”

Crews placed the first panel on its concrete foundation early Monday and plan to move westward as the project evolves. When it’s completed, the sound barrier will span the entire length of the interchange and stand 16 feet at its highest point.

The panels were cast by Missoula Concrete.

“The Montana Department of Transportation has experienced great success with recent and similar sound wall installations in the Kalispell area,” said Bob Vosen of MDT. “We’re now implementing the best design for the lower Rattlesnake, which is the first of its kind in the Missoula area.”

(Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

The construction underway at Van Buren was years in the making and looks to improve the safety and function of the downtown interchange. Once completed, it will be the first double roundabout in Missoula.

Traffic counts conducted by MDT in 2014 found the heaviest use of I-90 through Missoula at the Orange Street and Van Buren interchanges. The Orange Street roundabout was completed last year and is, the state has said, the first five-legged roundabout in the state.

The Missoula City Council and Parks and Recreation had a hand in guiding the Van Buren project’s landscaping, as well as the final design of the sound barrier. Both sides of the wall will have a decorative relief and be treated with an anti-graffiti coating.

“The panels are pretty maintenance free,” said Pfeifer. “The biggest cost on the maintenance side is the graffiti that can happen. We put a silicon anti-graffiti coat that helps ease the maintenance burden and clean it easier.”

The bulk of the work is set for completion in August with landscaping to follow in November.