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New O'Hare Runway to Open On Time Despite Congressman's Concerns, Feds Say

 A plane takes off from O'Hare.
A plane takes off from O'Hare.
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O'HARE — Federal officials said Wednesday a new runway will open at O'Hare Airport in less than two months, despite a plea from from U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) to reconsider the plan because of noise and property value concerns throughout the far Northwest Side.

The objections raised by the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition — made up of six community groups that have been protesting the changes for months — do not merit additional environmental studies, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Anthony Molinaro said.

The new east-west runway, which will allow planes traveling to and from O'Hare to operate more safely, will open as scheduled Oct. 17, Molinaro said.

Part of the $6.6 billion O'Hare Modernization Plan, approved in 2001, the new runway will allow planes to depart and arrive at the airport from the east to west rather than using the airport's existing diagonal runways, which can force planes to cross paths during takeoff and landing.

"It will help tremendously in bad weather," Molinaro said, adding that the runway will allow more flights to take off and land on time.

Quigley asked the FAA to consider completing an additional study of the environmental impact of the new flight plan, citing "concern and anger" from residents of the 5th Congressional District about the amount of air traffic over their homes now — and their fear it will grow exponentially after the new runway is in service.

"I am concerned about the potential impact the environmental and noise issues will have on the communities in my district," Quigley wrote on July 22.

The congressman met with FAA officials on Aug. 12 to reiterate his concerns about the change in the flight path, said Laura Sisemore, a spokeswoman for Quigley.

There are "ongoing discussions" about the best way to address the community's concerns, Sisemore said.

Once the new runway is opened, there will be a "virtual railroad track in the sky" over the 33rd39th45th and 41st wards, according to the coalition.

The new flight path would mean that 85 percent of O'Hare arrivals and departures between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. will travel over homes in Sauganash, Forest Glen, Edgebrook and North Park, according to the coalition.

The number of flights from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. is set to jump from 15 to more than 90. During the day, flights would increase from 300 to more than 400, according to data provided by the O’Hare Compatibility Noise Commission.

The original environmental study was completed in 2005 and does not properly address the hundreds of homes that will experience more jet racket or take into account the loss of hundreds of thousands of pollution-reducing ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, according to the coalition's policy statement.

The coalition, made up of the Edgebrook Community Association, the Hollywood-North Park Community Association, the Sauganash Community Association, the Forest Glen Community Club and the Sauganash Park Community Association, plans to distribute 8,000 fliers to residents' homes urging them to register their objection to the new runway, said organizer Jac Charlier, of Edgebrook.