Transparent sound barrier maintains visibility for Little Canada business

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A big window is going up alongside a highway instead of a big wall.

It's a solution to what a business owner saw as a potential problem.

Crews are installing a transparent sound barrier along I-35E in Little Canada because for Suburban Auto Body, transparency is revenue.

The business has been in clear view for decades. That’s free advertising to every car that passes, but suddenly MnDOT said it was putting up a tall sound barrier right smack in front of it.

“How can they do that? How can they put a wall in front of the business, I've been here for 35 years,” said Dennis O’Connell, the owner of Suburban Auto Body.

O'Connell believed the wall could wipe him out. So, he asked MnDOT to do something different and put up a clear sound barrier instead.  The cost?  Triple the price of the common wall, but O'Connell is the one who is paying the more than $100,000 price tag.

“There’s probably a couple thousand cars that go by here every day and that is banked marketing, banked advertising, so when people see us or hear our name on TV they remember our name and remember who we are,” said O’Connell.

With the project almost complete, O'Connell says he likes his new unique window.

“Not perfect but, totally 100 percent acceptable,” he said.

But the cost is a bit painful, even though it's likely worth it.

“I haven't written [the check] yet,” said O’Connell. “I don't know when they're going ask for that. But I'm going delay it as much as possible, but with respect, because they did go to bat for me. They did help me a lot.”

The transparent wall is self-cleaning, but O’Connell says if necessary he'd be out there with his ladder and cleaner making sure that everyone could still see his business.