Let me tell you what that's like to live next to the freeway, and what to look for if your considering moving near a major traffic artery. First of all, a little background.
The home I live in was designed and built in 2000 with the freeway in mind - the freeway was planned for in the 1950's and built in the early 1960s.
Therefore, most of the windows in my house face away from the highway, and the bedrooms are the rooms furthest away from the road. The side of the house closest to the road consists of bathrooms and a stairwell. These internal rooms help capture some of the noise that would otherwise enter the house.
Given the building's urban setting, there is little lawn, but there is a good sized outdoor patio.
Road Geography and Use
The road is a 6 lane stretch of a major Interstate freeway. There is a ravine nearby, and so therefore there is a large overpass structure 100 feet behind my house. This stretch of freeway is on a significant grade that occurs before some sharper 50 mph curves and a heavy traffic bottleneck.
The nearest off-ramp is roughly one half mile away.
The speed limit behind my house is 55 mph. Traffic can build up during rush hours of 7-10AM and 3-6 PM, but is usually free-flowing outside of rush hour.
There is no sound barrier along this stretch of freeway.
Living next to the Freeway
Here's what I've discovered about living so close to the freeway.
Indoors, the noise isn't bad
I can sometimes hear vehicles going by if I listen for them, but soon after moving in I stopped actively hearing them. If I listen now, I can hear the occasional vehicle go by, but it isn't loud or annoying.
I do keep an air purifier in my bedroom, which generates some white noise. I think this helps me ignore any sounds as I sleep.
Keeping the windows closed
I do find that I really do have to keep the windows that face the road closed to keep the noise out. This isn't so bad in the winter, but in the summer it is less than ideal. Air conditioning is a good idea.
The patio isn't used that much
Although I have a nice patio, I rarely use it. The roadway noises outdoors simply make having a outdoor summertime conversation less fun.
Large trucks in disrepair suck.
This is where stronger penalties for violating the law could come in handy. Since the roadway is on a hill before some curves, some truckers that ignore the clear signage find themselves needing to apply their engine brakes. Trucks with engine brakes in disrepair make the entire house shake. This can wake me.
Roadway construction can be painful.
Major construction on the roadway takes place at night and on the weekends in order to minimize traffic congestion. However, that means that me and my neighbors suffer though night work, as workers do things like grind off layers of old pavement. This can be annoying at best.
Overpass is not so good.
Living near an substantial overpass isn't so great, as heavy vehicles can "bounce" over the structure's expansion joints, leading to some excessive noise and building shaking.
I never smell anything bad from the freeway. Ever. And I feel I have a giant, super-sensitive nose.
A conclusion: What to look for.
I find it definitely reasonable to live very close to a major freeway. I think that large highway structures, a roadway with a grade, or an area near merging lanes should be avoided if possible, as they may result in more noise and more shaking than a flat road.
I would do the following if looking for a place near the freeway:
- Understand the roadway. Drive on the freeway multiple times. Make sure the road is in good condition. A smooth, well-maintained road with smooth traffic patterns may be less noisy. Make sure the area isn't accident prone - more accidents could result in more noise from heavy braking.
- Understand if there are any construction plans for that stretch of road. New roadway structures or road grinding can impact noise and vibrations.
- Consider white noise generators to block out highway noises.
- Beware that vibrations from the highway may be more of a problem than the noise.