Chances are good that unless you're a city planner or traffic engineer, the number of hours – minutes, even – most people think about the history and design of the sound walls lining America's freeways is roughly zero. The concrete or cinderblock structures turn into a blur at high speeds, and they're specifically designed to blend into the background. If drivers don't notice the barriers, then the designers have done their jobs. However, a new piece from Medium digs deep into the proliferation of these anonymous dividers and comes up with an interesting tale.

Surprisingly, the sound barriers along the interstates today are partially a product of the entertainment history of Los Angeles. As far back as the '40s, the Hollywood Bowl investigated putting up a wall to shield itself from highway noise. Also, the clamor from freeways running near movie studio lots were such a concern that the Association of Motion Picture Producers worked with the Department of Public Works to conduct studies on the problem in the '50s.

It took until 1968 for the California Department of Public Works to build its first sound-mitigating barrier, but construction started booming in the '70s. According to the report as of 2010, 2,748 linear miles of these walls ran along US roads.

The piece also investigates how the walls are actually designed and the challenge of keeping them anonymous but not too boring. Even if the idea of reading about sound barriers seems dull to you, the report also includes some great vintage imagery of America's roads and the chance to build your own highway wall out of paper. Check it out on Medium.

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