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New O'Hare Runway Marks Anniversary, but Anti-Noise Group Vows To Fight On

By Heather Cherone | October 16, 2014 3:01pm | Updated on October 16, 2014 5:21pm
 A plane flies over Jefferson Park.
A plane flies over Jefferson Park.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

O'HARE — Northwest Side residents fed up with the constant roar of jets over their homes on Friday will mark the first anniversary of O'Hare's Airport's new runway's opening with a protest designed to turn up the heat on Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Members of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition plan to picket Friday morning outside of the Department of Aviation building at O'Hare to again demand that Emanuel do more to reduce the racket that many say has lowered their property values, made it impossible for them to sleep and forced them to avoid their yards.

Heather Cherone says monitors at some homes have shown uncomfotable noise levels:

The coalition, which formed more than a year and half ago to object to the new flight pattern designed to increase safety and efficiency at O'Hare, has asked to meet with Emanuel eight times. He has not responded to the group.

"We don't understand why he's been silent," said Jac Charlier, one of the founders of the coalition. "He is the one big voice that has been absent."

Adam Collins, a spokesman for Emanuel, said the mayor "is sensitive to [the] concerns" about jet noise and is working with federal officials to "understand the extent and magnitude of the problem." 

The mayor is working to balance "the economic benefits and jobs at O’Hare with the quality of life for residents in communities surrounding the airport," Collins said.

While Emanuel has not met with members of the coalition, city officials — including Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino — have met with them on a number of occasions, Collins said.

The protest is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Friday at 10510 W. Zemke Road, near Mannheim and Higgins roads.

"We are not going away," Charlier said. "This issue is not going away."

Emanuel has called for the Federal Aviation Administration to speed up a study that could 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. It is expected to be completed in mid-2016.

In addition, Emanuel announced in July that the city would install eight new noise monitors throughout the Northwest Side to measure the noise created by the jets. The locations for the monitors have not been announced.

The new $1.28 billion east-west runway is part of the O'Hare Modernization Program, approved in 2001. The airport's original diagonal runways can force planes to cross paths during takeoff and landing, creating a safety issue.

The coalition has repeatedly asked local and federal aviation officials to reduce the hundreds of flights over homes in Norwood Park, Sauganash, Forest Glen, Edgebrook and North Park that had little or no jet noise in previous years by spreading arriving and departing flights among all of the airport's runways.

The group also wants O'Hare to make its voluntary Fly Quiet program, which urges planes to choose flight paths over less-populated areas, mandatory.

However, both requests were rejected by the city's Department of Aviation after they were made by U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago.

The coalition has seen its agenda picked up by elected officials deluged with complaints from residents outraged by the noise.

In September, FAA officials rejected a call from Quigley to re-do a study of how new flight paths to and from O'Hare Airport impact Northwest Side neighborhoods, a demand first made by the coalition before the first flight landed on the new runway.

Many Chicagoans are watching their "quality of life rapidly deteriorat[e]" because of the jet noise, Quigley said. 

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.

The number of complaints is likely to decline as the weather turns colder and people close their windows and stay inside, Charlier said.

"But there will be another surge in the spring," Charlier said. "And we'll be there demanding solutions."

The next new runway called for by the modernization plan is scheduled to open in 2015.