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O'Hare Noise Workshop Drew Thousands Fed Up With Jet Noise, Officials Say

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

O'HARE — More than 2,230 people attended four workshops that gave Northwest Side residents a chance to tell federal officials to reduce the racket caused by jets using new east-west runways at O'Hare Airport, officials said.

In addition, Federal Aviation Administration officials have received more than 3,690 comments as they decide 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.

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.

Approximately 50 percent more people attended the four hearings Aug. 10-13 about the change in the order of runways than did the original hearings held in February 2005 before the massive project was approved by state, local and federal officials, Molinaro said.

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.

Chicago officials have received more than 1.5 million complaints since October 2013, when many Northwest Side residents said the sky above their homes — where they heard little-to-no jet noise before the runway opened — became a "virtual railroad track in the sky" filled with hundreds of arriving and departing flights.

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

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 Thursday 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.

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