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'The Noise is Killing Me:' NW Side Residents Plead for O'Hare Noise Relief

Bernie Romano (l.) reviews information provided at a workshop on Tuesday about jet noise. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

NORWOOD PARK — Izabela Piatek, who lives near Oriole Park, said she and her neighbors came to a meeting Tuesday designed to give her a chance to weigh in on the expansion of O'Hare Airport for a simple reason.

"The noise is killing me," Piatek said, adding that she is awakened by cargo flights every night at 3 a.m. and finds it impossible to go back to sleep. "It is very hard to live like this."

Piatek said she understands the airport was critical to the health of Chicago's economy, but was worried how she would cope with the noise as she got older.

"We need the airport, but someone should think about the little people," Piatek said.

Heather Cherone says many residents are pessimistic moving forward:

The workshops — which continue Wednesday and Thursday in the western suburbs — were designed to gather feedback on whether a change in the order of east-west runways being built at O'Hare warrants a full-scale reconsideration of the environmental impact of the massive project, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

Bernie Romano, who like Piatek lives in Norwood Park, said she is also woken up by the nighttime cargo flights, which O'Hare officials acknowledge are among the loudest.

But Romano had little hope that her words — delivered to a court reporter seated at a desk in a hallway at Taft High School — would make any difference to federal aviation officials deciding whether additional environmental studies of the airport expansion are needed.

"I have no confidence that [the meetings] mean anything," Romano said. "This was just a chance for us to bitch and moan. The pictures were nice and glossy and pretty. That's about all."

The FAA has tentatively found that the conclusions laid out in the 2005 environmental study used to approve the $8.7 billion project are still valid, and a more comprehensive environmental study is not needed, Molinaro said.

A plane soars over the Northwest Side. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

After federal officials review residents' comments, a final decision is expected to be issued before the new runway on the south side of the airport, at Berteau Avenue, opens on Oct. 15, Molinaro said.

The meetings also served as a chance for federal officials to warn residents that the flight paths will change after the newest east-west runway opens, Molinaro said.

"People need to know that there will be a change," Molinaro said.

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

Patrick Loftus, who said he hears jet noise at all hours at his home in Sauganash, said he was more optimistic than Romano that federal officials would take action to reduce the roar of planes.

"I know there won't be a short-term solution, but the people won't go away either," Loftus said.

A consultant answers questions about O'Hare Airport's operations at a workshop Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Heather Cherone]

The analysis by the FAA anticipates that the new runway will be used mostly for arrivals from the west, at least until 2021 — when the expansion is expected to be complete.

That means air traffic over the Northwest Side will be mostly unchanged, although arriving and departing planes will be spread out over a wider area stretching from north to south across the airfield, Molinaro said.

The plan assumes two diagonal runways at O'Hare will be dismantled as scheduled — one on the east side next week and one on the west side in 2019.

Nearly 70 percent of the time, the winds at O'Hare flow from the west. That means most planes take off over the suburbs west of the airport, and land after flying over the North and Northwest sides of Chicago.

The final two workshops will take place from 1-9 p.m. Wednesday at Monty's Elegant Banquets, 703 S. York Road, Bensenville; and from 1-9 p.m. Thursday at Belvedere Events and Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave., Elk Grove Village.

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