by Brian Eyster
Construction began several weeks ago on a new sound wall along Highway 36 on the western edge of Planet Bluegrass. The eight foot tall sound barrier is the final element relating to the North St. Vrain bridge projects, which were rebuilt by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in 2007. “This was part of the plan all along,” says Planet Bluegrass president Craig Ferguson.Entirely funded by Planet Bluegrass, the wood and steel acoustical wall will minimize traffic noise from the acceleration lane on Highway 36 (added as part of the bridge project). This noise funnels up the canyon into the concert area, disrupting the summer concerts, which attract thousands of “festivarians” to Lyons every summer. “Since the road project was completed it’s been a very noticeable change in the audio experiences for our audience,” says Ferguson.
The sound wall project began in 2002 when the Town of Lyons and CDOT began planning the Highway 36 project. In addition to widening the road, a major part of the early planning was the location for a sidewalk to connect Eagle Canyon, Apple Valley Road, and the Antelope Trailhead to downtown Lyons. Planet Bluegrass contributed a significant amount of property to the CDOT project to allow a sidewalk on the east side of the road; in so doing, a row of mature trees lining the western edge of the property were removed. Those trees provided both privacy and sound dampening.
Ferguson recalls, “The discussions led us to think that if we can build a sound wall after the highway is built, then we’d feel okay about contributing our property to this project.”
After an extensive acoustical study, Planet Bluegrass worked with architects and engineers to design a sound barrier that would meet the rigid codes required by any CDOT sound barrier. “It’s been a complicated process,” noted Ferguson. In addition to the engineering concerns, the new sound wall was designed to fit aesthetically with the natural environment and the design elements of the new bridges. Ferguson pointed out, “People will notice that the beams on the sound wall resemble the design motif on the new bridges.”
After a thorough public process, the sound wall was approved by the Town of Lyons in 2008 and by CDOT in early 2010. To help avoid congestion from summer and autumn traffic, construction was delayed until this past December. The new sound wall will connect with two new slant-roofed entrance structures on either side of the entrance to the Planet Bluegrass Ranch. The project is expected to be completed by early spring. “Maybe this isn’t what we envisioned to start out with,” says Ferguson. “We‘re as surprised as anyone that our simple sound wall ended up being such a heavy duty construction project. And that it has taken over eight years to complete.”