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City to Install Eight New Noise Monitors to Record Jets Near O'Hare

By  Heather Cherone and Ted Cox | July 22, 2014 12:32pm | Updated on July 22, 2014 2:41pm

 A plane flies over Jefferson Park, one of the neighborhoods complaining about the noise coming from new flight paths since a new runway was opened.
A plane flies over Jefferson Park, one of the neighborhoods complaining about the noise coming from new flight paths since a new runway was opened.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

O'HARE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday the city would install eight new noise monitors to gather data on the racket that has blanketed the Far Northwest Side caused by jets using a new runway at O'Hare International Airport.

The additional monitors will help city aviation officials to "gather and process the data" needed "to better understand the impact" of the noise caused by changes in the flight paths to and from O'Hare, Emanuel said.

That noise has angered residents of Far Northwest Side neighborhoods like Edgebrook, Sauganash and North Park, who heard little to no jet racket before the new east-west runway opened in October 2013, and blame it for significantly reducing their quality of life.

The locations of the new monitors will be chosen by city officials working with the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, Alds. Margaret Laurino (39th), Mary O'Connor (41st), Patrick O'Connor (40th) and Michael Zalewski (23rd), Emanuel said.

They will be installed "as soon as possible," according to the statement.

Speaking at the groundbreaking for a new annex for Wildwood Elementary School in Edgebrook on the Far Northwest Side, Emanuel said Tuesday that the additional noise monitors were an acknowledgement that while Chicago's economy is important, its neighborhoods are as well.

"We need to find a balance where they live together and grow together," Emanuel said, as a steady stream of planes flew west over the school to land at O'Hare.

There are now 33 noise monitors surrounding the airport, which is in the midst of the $6.6 billion O'Hare Modernization Program, which is designed to expand the airport's capacity and make it function more efficiently.

However, only two of those monitors are in the city.

All of the new monitors will be installed on the Northwest Side, but some may be in the northwest suburbs, Zalewski said.

Laurino said she was pleased by the mayor's decision.

"I think they're gonna confirm what we already know," Laurino said, adding that Emanuel wants all eight new monitors to be in the city. "It's another piece of the puzzle."

O'Connor said the monitors would give the city accurate records of the noise caused by the planes.

"It's one step closer to us trying to find a way to improve the quality of life for everyone on the Northwest Side," O'Connor said.

The plan for more noise monitors is a good thing, said Jac Charlier, a member of the leadership team of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, which has been protesting the changes at O'Hare since the new runway opened.

A demand for more noise monitors is No. 4 on the group's list of priorities, which it released more than 15 months ago, Charlier said.

Charlier credited the pressure generated by the coalition, which has grow significantly since it was founded, for the mayor's action.

"We're not stopping," Charlier said, adding that members want to sit down with local and federal aviation officials to discuss a long-term solution to the noise caused by the planes traveling to and from O'Hare. 

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.

Residents of the 41st Ward, which includes Norwood Park and Edison Park, filed the highest number of complaints of any Chicago ward, logging 1,634 objections to the sound of planes taking off and landing at O'Hare.

Residents of the 45th Ward filed 889 complaints, while those in the 39th Ward filed 825 complaints.

Residents say the new flight patterns have destroyed their quality of life, made it impossible for them to sleep or enjoy their yards and lowered their property values.

The new runway allows planes to take off and land without crossing paths with other jets while on the ground, which aviation officials say will reduce delays. Most planes now take off toward the west, while arrivals approach from the east. 

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) has called for the FAA to hold a new round of public meetings on the impact of O'Hare noise on neighborhoods, saying studies 10 years ago did not make it clear that the new runway would send hundreds of flights over homes in neighborhoods like Wildwood and Jefferson Park.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Quigley said he would continue to push 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 and to allow more homes to qualify for subsidized soundproofing, such as new attic insulation, air conditioning, exterior doors, storm doors and windows that block all noise.

"While I'm glad the city is taking this important step, there's plenty more that can be done," Quigley said. 

Although O'Connor has said the runway construction should be put on hold until new studies are completed, Emanuel said it was "necessary" and would add 195,000 jobs and contribute $18 billion to the region's economy.

A month ago, Mary O'Connor, Laurino, Patrick O'Connor and Ald. John Arena (45th) renewed their call for a City Council hearing to give aviation officials to answer questions about what can be done to reduce the noise.

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