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Midway's New Flight Path Hikes Noise Levels Over Bridgeport; Complaints Up

By Casey Cora | June 17, 2014 5:13am
 A new flight path into Midway Airport is bringing more airplanes over Bridgeport.
A new flight path into Midway Airport is bringing more airplanes over Bridgeport.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — One by one, the big jets roared westward over Bridgeport on their approach to Midway Airport.

"It's like every 10 to 15 minutes," said Miguel Negrete, 50, while attempting to relax on his stoop near 29th and Loomis streets. "There's a lot of people in the neighborhood who say if they wanted to live by the airport, they would've moved by the airport," he said.

The airplanes are traveling on a new federally approved flight path that opened in early February, one that guides jets from Lake Michigan to Midway's Runway 22L. The planes are generally supposed to follow Interstate 55.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said in an email the new route, which could be used by hundreds of planes daily, "goes over fewer residences, is a safer straight-in line, reduces fuel burn, and saves time for the traveler."

 Airplanes traveling on a new federally approved flight path guides jets from Lake Michigan to Midway's Runway 22L.
Airplanes traveling on a new federally approved flight path guides jets from Lake Michigan to Midway's Runway 22L.
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Casey Cora discusses what Bridgeport residents are so upset about and whether the FAA is willing to help:

The complaints from residents have been on the rise with the summer temperatures. On multiple social media pages, residents have complained that the jet noise interrupts outdoor conversations and disrupts otherwise quiet times.

City data shows 140 complaints were made concerning Midway noise in the first quarter of this year, which covers January through March and includes the debut of the new flight path.

That's more than twice the complaints there were in the first quarter of 2013, when 60 were logged.

And more complaints are expected to roll in as the anti-noise backlash takes hold on social media, where residents are encouraging one another to flood the city's 311 website and the toll-free noise hotline at 800-914-8537.

Noise complaint data from the second quarter of 2014 will be released later this summer.

So what can local residents do about it?

Other than paying out of their own pocket to soundproof their homes, the answer is not much.

The city does offer some recourse for homeowners who live in the boundaries of what's known as a 65DNL threshold map, where recorded sound exceeds an average of 65 decibels. Homes in those boundaries are eligible for federally subsidized soundproofing.

But residents of Armour Square, Chinatown, Bridgeport and McKinley Park — neighborhoods under the new flight path — are shut out from the program because no homes east of Pulaski Road qualify for it, according to an interactive chart.

Ald. James Balcer (11th) said his office has received numerous complaints related to the new airplane noise, and he encouraged residents of the ward to attend the next meeting of the Midway Noise Compatibility Commission at 6:30 p.m. July 24 at the Mayfield banquet hall, 6072 S. Archer Ave.

Residents looking to make a complaint with the city about aviation noise can do so at this website.

As for hopes the FAA and the city will expand the boundaries for soundproofing, residents shouldn't hold their breath. The agencies won't reconvene on that issue again until 2018.

To determine sound levels within their homes, residents can also apply to rent from the city portable sound monitoring devices to record noise levels. The devices are free.

But the usefulness of that program is debatable, at least for getting some financial help — the FAA says the results of those tests don't determine eligibility for any sound insulation programs.

A city aviation spokeswoman said homeowners looking to lessen the plane noise can download this online booklet filled with soundproofing suggestions.

"We are not aware of other City-sponsored, or other sound-insulation programs," city aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said in an email.

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