Balfour Road Interchange

Photo courtesy of Tom Raniere

Residents from at least four Brentwood housing developments near Highway 4 have long made noise about the unbearable traffic sounds emanating from the roadway.

Now, at least one city official hopes to quiet their concerns.

City Councilmember Karen Rarey is expected to urge her fellow councilmembers to agree a sound study needs to be completed to determine whether the highway noise exceeds city requirements.

“I am hoping we can find out what the actual noise level is,” Rarey said. “Right now, it’s a guess what it is consistently, because the city bases it on a 24-hour period, not the highs and lows of specific times. They also give it a 10-point penalty for evening noise, which makes a difference too, according to the general plan.”

Rarey is expected to suggest the study explore Highway 4, from the Balfour Road Interchange all the way out to Marsh Creek.

That stretch should cover the Siena Village, Trilogy and Summerset 3 and 4 communities, whose residents are growing frustrated over traffic-related noise that crashed into their lives, apparently after the multi-phased State Route 4 Bypass project altered the roadway to ease traffic congestion and improve access to certain areas.

“The road noise is so bad you can’t even sit outside for five minutes,” said Cheri Cruey, a Trilogy resident. “Our house is locked up 24/7; we can never open windows, and we can never open doors unless it’s in the middle of the night. But those trucks start running at 2:30 or 3 o’clock in the morning.”

Cruey said her community’s noise issues grew to unbearable levels about four years ago, when the former Highway 4 bypass transitioned to Highway 4.

Sukumar Dash, a Siena Village subdivision resident, said he experiences similar frustrations that accelerated into his family’s life immediately after a portion of the Balfour Road interchange project opened in July 2018.

“Things have changed,” Dash said. “I moved in in 2014. I’ve never complained for the four years I have lived here. I just started complaining after the lanes opened.”

Dash has been in discussions with the city and his home’s developer to address his complaint, but he remains unsatisfied. City staff have not publicly disclosed the outcome of those discussions.

Outside city agencies completed a State Route 4 Bypass project environmental impact report in 1994, with addenda completed for subsequent portions of the project in 2011 and 2014. The sound study information in those reports, however, raises questions, Rarey said.

“When they did the update, they said they felt no noise mitigation needed to be done, other than for homes that were not there to have sound walls put in, which the city has asked to have done,” Rarey said. “The other thing that was hard to determine based on the documents is that in 2014 there was supposed to be another sound study, but without looking at the addendum for that sound study, which I can’t find anywhere, it’s hard to tell whether they just took those numbers from before and extrapolated them to what it might be.”

Rarey said if her request moves forward, it will help city officials, likely working with developers and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, narrow down what noise mitigations should be explored.

Some residents, however, say they already know why the disruption exists.

Cruey said a sound wall extends almost the entire length of the east side of Highway 4, from right past the HomeGoods store almost to Marsh Creek, which deflects noise into the sound wall-free residences on the other side of the road.

“That is the problem,” said Cruey. “It’s clear as glass.”

A group of about a dozen Trilogy residents met with Rarey recently to suggest the city explore installing rubberized asphalt in areas; reducing allowable vehicle speeds; adding an earth berm to absorb some of noise between the homes and highway; and fixing a sound-causing bump in the road near the transition from roadway to bridge on Highway 4, near Fairview Avenue.

Siena Village residents, meanwhile, are hoping the seven-foot sound wall that separates their homes from the highway can be raised; their windows modified to combat the noise; and trees planted between the sound wall and their residences.

“Something needs to be done,” Dash said.

Rarey said it’s possible her sound study idea will be discussed at the council’s Dec. 10 meeting, but nothing has been finalized.

To view upcoming meeting agendas, usually published a few days in advance of the meetings, visit