CITY HALL — Aldermen used budget hearings to press the city's aviation chief on O'Hare noise complaints Friday.
Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th) pressed the issue that a runway reconfiguration at O'Hare International Airport had led to increased noise complaints across the Northwest Side from her constituents and other city residents.
"They did not move next to the airport," Laurino said. "But O'Hare moved next to them."
Laurino led other City Council members in grilling Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino on what if anything can be done to reverse the increased noise. She said 311 complaints produced little in response.
Andolino said they were logging complaints and "we're gonna continue to monitor it," including with additional noise monitors across the area. "We will advocate for you," she promised.
Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) said the change in traffic patterns resulting from the new runways at O'Hare had "greatly diminished the quality of life in communities like mine."
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) added the problem extended down flight paths running above Montrose Avenue, Irving Park Road and Berteau Avenue from Albany Park to Lincoln Square and on to Uptown. He said increasingly planes were making their turns to O'Hare above those neighborhoods, and not out over Lake Michigan, as tended to be the procedure in the past.
"You didn't move there knowing that you were going to be under a flight path that was going to expand," Pawar said. "I feel like the current situation is untenable."
Andolino the situation should get better thanks to improvements in the years to come, including the gradual phaseout of older airplanes for newer, quieter, more efficient planes.
"Technology is our friend," she said.
That did little to appease Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th).
"That's not really gonna fly, because we're having problems now," she said.
Pawar said technology was not necessarily their friend. He pointed to the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen system, which will automate plane arrivals and departures and take duties away from air-traffic controllers.
"It promises far more precision," Andolino said, emphasizing that it's considered a safety initiative.
Yet Pawar said it can "exacerbate the problem," in that it can line up planes closer together. "There are more planes, and they're coming in lower and louder," he added.
Laurino pointed to the recent problems resulting from the attack on a suburban Aurora FAA facility by a disgruntled worker, saying, "I don't have a lot of confidence in them right now."
Andolino emphasized afterward that the City Council had signed off on the new O'Hare runways in 2001. "We did it under budget and ahead of schedule," she said. "I understand there are impacts ... however, there are limited things we can do to change that, but we're working on ways to minimize those impacts."
This figured to be the last budget grilling for Andolino, who is leaving the post to join an engineering firm.
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