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Durham parents prevail over DOT

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It seems absurd on the face of it--when the state Department of Transportation builds an Interstate highway next to an elementary school, it doesn't get a sound wall. Small children trying to learn aren't that important to the state's highway engineers.

But that could change thanks to a concerted lobbying effort by parents of kids at Club Boulevard Elementary School in Durham. They've convinced the state DOT to build a wall on a bridge next to the school, where I-85 is being widened, and in the area leading up to it.

After first saying it was too expensive ("DOT rejects noise wall for school" was The N&O headline in January), and with prodding from people like state Sen. Wib Gulley of Durham, who oversees transportation funding, the engineers discovered a novel construction technique that makes use of recycled materials in the bridge's sound wall.

"It's a very, very good story about a community pushing back," said Nina Szlosberg, who holds the environmental seat on the DOT board and took up the cause. (Question: Where was Durham's DOT representative, Ty Cox?) Now, Szlosberg is heading a committee to review the DOT's policy on sound walls that could lead to change statewide.

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