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Aldermen Renew Call for City Council Hearings on O'Hare Noise

By Heather Cherone | June 27, 2014 3:28pm | Updated on June 30, 2014 8:02am
 A jet lands at O'Hare Airport in this file photo.
A jet lands at O'Hare Airport in this file photo.
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Getty Images/File Photo

O’HARE — Three Northwest Side aldermen fed up with the constant roar of jet noise over their wards renewed their call for aviation officials to answer questions about what can be done to reduce the racket caused by planes using O’Hare Airport’s new runway.

Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th), Ald. Mary O’Connor (41st) first called for the City Council hearing in January when complaints to the city-run toll-free hotline began to soar after the new runway opened and sent hundreds of flights over parts of the city that had never before had to deal with jet noise.

After months of delays, Laurino and O’Connor this week reintroduced the ordinance calling for the hearing, and were joined by Ald. John Arena, whose 45th Ward has also seen a huge increase in the amount of jet noise, as well as North Side Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th).

“We don’t think anyone had any idea the impact the new runway would have on the quality of life on the Northwest Side,” said Owen Brugh, Arena’s chief of staff. “We need a hearing to start developing solutions that protect our communities’ quality of life.”

In May, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, told DNAinfo Chicago they had been delayed by federal and local aviation officials who were reluctant to confront angry residents demanding answers.

Patrick O’Connor is Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader, and one of the most powerful members of the City Council. His support of the hearing is an indication that Emanuel has dropped his opposition to the hearing, several City Hall sources said Friday.

Patrick O’Connor did not return a phone message Friday.

Part of the $6.6 billion O'Hare Modernization Plan, approved in 2001, the new runway allows planes to take off and land without crossing paths with other jets while on the ground, which is expected to reduce delays.

The number of complaints to the city-run toll-free noise hotline rose 645 percent from March 2013 — before the new runway opened— to March 2014, according to the most recent data released by the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

Earlier this month, Mary O’Connor said the airport’s expansion should be put on hold until new hearings can be held on the impact of the noise generated by planes using the new runway.

Quigley urged federal officials to redo the environmental studies of the airport expansion, saying the 10-year-old original assessment was fatally flawed.

The opening of the new east-west runway has sent hundreds of additional flights soaring over homes on the Far Northwest Side of Chicago and in the western suburbs that had little or no jet noise in previous years.

Federal aviation officials said the flight patterns at O'Hare are designed to ensure the airport operates as efficiently and as safely as possible.

Chicago Department of Aviation officials have rejected Quigley's calls to extend the hours of the airport's voluntary "fly quiet" program, which urges planes to choose flight paths over less-populated areas, such as forest preserves and expressways, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The program should start at 9 p.m., according to the congressman.

In addition, Chicago aviation officials have rejected calls to spread out arrivals and departures among all of the airport runways, saying it would "simply displace noise impacts from one neighborhood to another.''

Quigley also has asked FAA officials to allow more homes around O'Hare to qualify for subsidized soundproofing, such as new attic insulation, air conditioning, exterior doors, storm doors and windows that block all noise.

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