The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 7, Number 2, 2008

ISSN 1602-2297

How to Encourage Road Noise Abatement in Nordic Municipalities

Claus Hedegaard Sørensen
Institute of Transport Economics, Oslo.
Currently, Post doc. Researcher at the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change, Roskilde University,
and senior advisor at Tetraplan, Copenhagen.

Abstract: Road noise nuisance is a huge problem in the Nordic countries, and it seems diffi cult for Nordic countries to meet national targets for its reduction. One reason for this is the lack of municipal activities in the fi eld. Th us the research question that this article seeks to answer in relation to already existing residential areas and roads is: which conditions in the municipal organisation and its institutional environment contribute to making municipalities provide and implement noise abatement measures? Th e assumption is that three factors infl uence how the municipalities prioritize among political issues: the municipal organisation itself, the local institutional environment (citizens, business and NGOs), and the state and trans-municipal networks. A study of the anatomy of municipal road noise abatement policy shows that conditions for implementing road noise abatement in existing residential areas are poor, though, possibly, the large municipalities represent an exception to this rule. In general, road traffi c noise abatement does not seem to be institutionalised, whether it be in the municipal organisation or the institutional environment. Two case studies of municipalities involved in eff orts beyond the usual are chosen for further analysis, namely the construction of a noise barrier in the Danish municipality of Hørsholm, as well as noise abatement windows in the City of Stockholm. Inspired by the case studies I highlight some conditions which seem to be important for making municipalities actively provide and implement road noise abatement measures in situations of existent residential areas and roads. For the municipal organisation, regularly mapping the noise problem and making status reports of the achievements are very important. Civil servants should also use any opportunity to stress the noise problem. In the local institutional environment patient and persistent citizens are very important, and it is important that they behave in ways which the civil servants and the politicians respect. Legislation plays a signifi cant role with respect to state and trans-municipal networks. Finally, the state’s fi nancial support for municipalities which are abating noise is a signifi cant condition, as are ambitious state objectives. From the case studies presented here it is possible to identify two types of strategies which can be pursued. Th e fi rst is the citizen strategy, where citizens are the driving forces. A problem with this strategy might be some degree of inequality. Th e other strategy is the civil servant strategy, where civil servants are the driving force. A consequence of this strategy might be that it will mainly be citizens in larger cities that will benefi t from noise abatement measures..

Keywords: Traffi c noise, implementation, municipalities, the Nordic countries.

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