Transportation Noise:

Federal Control and Abatement Responsibilities May Need to Be Revised

RCED-90-11: Published: Oct 12, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined aircraft, highway, and railroad noise, focusing on the: (1) extent of the transportation noise problem; (2) status of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) noise control activities and plans when it eliminated its program; and (3) current federal, state, and local noise control activities.

GAO found that: (1) an estimated 3.2 million people lived in areas generally incompatible for residential use because of aircraft noise, and aircraft, railroad, and highway noise levels significantly interfered with sleep, conversation and relaxation in normal environments; (2) under its noise program, EPA issued noise emission standards for trucks, motorcycles, and interstate motor and rail carriers, proposed aircraft noise regulations, and assisted state and local governments in noise program development; (3) prior to eliminating its noise program, EPA planned to further lower transportation noise levels through additional regulations and more effort in assisting localities in land-use planning around transportation facilities; (4) the Federal Aviation Administration had a program that included aircraft noise standards, operating controls, and noise abatement assistance to airports, while the Federal Highway Administration required states to consider noise in planning and designing federally aided highway projects and provided funds for noise barrier construction along federal-aid highways; (5) state and local governments could not adopt their own noise controls for equipment and operations where EPA standards remained in effect; and (6) some states did not expand their noise control offices to assist localities with noise problems.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, held hearings during September 1990 on the economic impacts of a national aircraft noise policy. The Research and Development Subcommittee held hearings on aircraft noise during September 1990. DOT issued a national noise policy in late 1991. The noisiest aircraft will be phased out.

    Matter: Congress may wish to reexamine the federal role with regard to transportation noise control and abatement. Key considerations for Congress are the extent of the transportation noise problem, local needs for assistance in dealing with them, and the cost of additional activities to carry out an increased federal role.


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