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Jet Noise Complaints from Northwest Side Residents Hit New High

By Heather Cherone | October 3, 2014 11:00am | Updated on October 6, 2014 8:33am
 A plane soars over the Northwest Side.
A plane soars over the Northwest Side.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

O'HARE — Complaints about jet noise soared more than 8 percent from July to August, as elected officials again demanded that federal aviation officials re-examine the impact of the racket caused by planes using a new runway at O'Hare Airport.

In August, 30,249 complaints were made to the city-run toll-free hotline and website, more complaints than were filed in all of 2013, according to the most recent data released Friday by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

Since August 2013 — before a new east-west runway opened last fall as part of the $6.6 billion O'Hare Modernization Program — the number of complaints have skyrocketed more than 1,200 percent, according to data from the noise commission.

Residents of Ald. Mary O'Connor's 41st Ward, which includes Norwood Park and Edison Park, filed the highest number of complaints of any Chicago ward, logging 4,343 objections to the sound of planes taking off and landing at O'Hare.

That represents a drop of nearly 33 percent from the number of complaints filed by 41st Ward residents in July.

Those complaints came from 279 residents of the 41st Ward, with many people filing dozens of complaints every day, according city aviation officials.

Heather Cherone offers some background about the complaints:

The number of complaints from residents in Ald. John Arena's 45th Ward, which includes Jefferson Park and Forest Glen, also dropped about 30 percent from July to August.

Complaints rose about 7 percent in Ald. Margaret Laurino's 39th Ward, which includes Sauganash and Edgebrook.

The commission met Friday at Rosewood Banquets in Rosemont after dozens of residents were turned away from its September meeting. But members of the public were given only 10 minutes of the two-hour meeting to address the commission.

The commission endorsed a measure authored by Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to re-do the now-decade old study of the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods of the new flight paths to and from O'Hare. 

But the FAA rejected a similar call from U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th) in September, and it is unlikely the commission's action would prompt the agency to reconsider its decision.

That rejection drew an angry reaction from Quigley, who said many Chicagoans were watching their "quality of life rapidly deteriorat[e]" because of the racket made by jets using the airport's new east-west runway. Because of the new runway configuration, hundreds more flights soar over Far Northwest Side homes in neighborhoods that had little or no jet noise in previous years."

Flight patterns at O'Hare are designed to ensure the airport operated as efficiently and safely as possible, federal aviation officials said.

In other action, the commission voted to add a member to represent residents of the 40th Ward.

Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) requested a seat on the commission after an increasing number of residents of his North Side ward began complaining about jet noise.

Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice objected to the addition, saying it was unfair to give Chicago six seats — and six votes — on the 54-member commission. In addition to a member representing the city as a whole, the 36th, 38th, 39th, 41st and 45th wards have seats on the commission.

"Wood Dale has four wards," Pulice said. "Why don't they each get a vote? Chicago is trying to stack the deck."

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