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Low berms that mitigate noise are less expensive to construct and maintain than structural concrete and fiberglass noise walls, but there is a limited amount of available information about the comparative effectiveness of low berms (6’ tall or less), especially related to acoustic benefits. Determining the acoustic benefits of low berms and the difference between structural noise barriers and taller earth berms is essential to guiding future noise mitigation implementation strategies.


Field test and model low berms and document the results. Compare the measured and modeled results. Compare the results to typical structural noise barrier results.


The proposed work plan to address the project goals includes at least the following activities:

  • Literature Search: A literature search of existing research will be performed to determine the results of previous studies on the acoustic and cost benefits of low berms compared to structural noise barriers.

  • Acoustic Testing & Field Documentation: Follow the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidance and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Highway Traffic Noise Analysis Manual guidance on noise measurements.Field test up to 15 low berm locations.

  • Field Data Analysis & Scenario Modeling: Tabulate the results from the field work into a spreadsheet and analyze the data. Identify patterns in the data and summarize. Model low berm locations in TNM2.5 and compare results to the field data.Compare the results of this study to other similar studies done by Ohio DOT and Caltrans.

  • Cost Benefit Analysis: Utilizing available information and current unit costs, perform a cost/benefit analysis, comparing low berms to structural noise walls, to determine which option is more cost effective. Costs should include construction and maintenance.

  • Report: Prepare a report that includes all of the information, results, and conclusions from the study.

Anticipated deliverables include the draft and revised final project report as well as quarterly reports describing the progress of the study. The final project report will include a detailed description of all project activities and recommendations. Another deliverable for this project will be the comprehensive database of low berms. A PowerPoint presentation will also be developed which can be used to report the results of the research study to DOT and other interested stakeholders.


Successfully utilizing the results of this study could result in a significant annual costs savings for noise barrier construction and noise barrier maintenance. These savings will compound over time as low berms are constructed in place of structural noise walls. In addition, there may be qualitative benefits related to a better quality of life for the adjacent residents, motorists, and wildlife that interact with the low berm (versus the structural wall).

Sponsoring Committee:AEP80, Transportation-Related Noise and Vibration
Research Period:6 - 12 months
RNS Developer:Noel Alcala
Date Posted:04/05/2021
Date Modified:04/20/2021
Index Terms:Berms, Acoustics, Traffic noise, Noise barriers,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Bridges and other structures

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