After nearly five decades of watching the cars go by, you kind of miss ’em when they’re gone.

“It’s a form of entertainment after a while,” said Pat Fries, who’s lived for 47 years with her husband, Gaylord, on the 2700 block of Utica Avenue S. in St. Louis Park. The Frieses’ small, neat home for all those years had a ringside view of Hwy. 100 about 30 yards away.

But over the summer, a new neighbor moved into the Birchwood neighborhood, and residents aren’t quite sure yet what to make of the newcomer. It’s a wooden sound barrier 20 feet high, installed as part of the extensive highway reconstruction underway in the area. The homes on this stretch of Utica, which once looked out onto a busy highway, now look out onto a tall, blank wall.

“I miss seeing the cars go by,” said Gaylord Fries, who noted that it was handy to have early warning of traffic jams on Hwy. 100 simply by looking out the window.

Farther up the block, Carol Becker said she won’t miss the traffic.

“But looking at that wall is something else,” she said. Several years ago, the Beckers spent several thousand dollars installing an earthen berm and mature plantings in their front yard to screen out the view of the highway. Now the blank face of the wall towers over everything.

“We’ll reserve judgment until we see what they do for landscaping,” Becker said.

Her next-door neighbor, Aleksey Barannik, agreed.

“I don’t mind it if they put some trees in front of it,” he said. “I’m fine with it.”

But that may be where the residents’ wishes hit the wall.

A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation said the department doesn’t typically do landscaping along highway sound barriers.