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Diagonal Runway at O'Hare Closed Despite Objections, City Officials Say

"This is not the end of the story," the leader of an anti-noise coalition said. "More conversations are needed. O'Hare must be a better neighbor."
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Flickr/ Jim Wissemes

O'HARE — Two large lighted Xs now block both ends of the diagonal runway on the east side of O'Hare Airport, after city officials closed it to air traffic Thursday despite objections from residents who said it is the only way to reduce jet noise over the Northwest Side.

The runway markings have been painted over, and barricades will be placed "at certain points" on the runway, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Owen Kilmer.

The Federal Aviation Administration will turn off the runway's remaining navigational equipment, "so no signals can be sent" to planes landing at O'Hare or taking off, Kilmer said.

However, Colleen Cichon-Mulcrone, a leader of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, said the group would continue to press city officials to use all of the runways at O'Hare Airport to reduce the racket that many residents contend has made it impossible for them to watch television, sleep or enjoy their yards.

"Nothing says that a closed runway can't be reopened," Mulcrone said.

Nevertheless, the city's decision to close the runway — despite a new state law allowing the airport to operate 10 runways instead of eight — is disappointing and frustrating, Mulcrone said.

"This is not the end of the story," Mulcrone said. "More conversations are needed. O'Hare must be a better neighbor."

While the coalition sees the runways as the last, best chance to reduce the roar of jets over the Northwest Side, city officials contend the runways — built in the 1950s — are "fatally flawed" and pose a safety threat to airline passengers throughout the city.

U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky have called for city officials to keep the diagonal runways open, echoing the coalition's demands.

City officials began dismantling the diagonal runway on the east side of the airport in May, removing equipment that helps pilots touch down safely during bad weather, despite the debate.

While rejecting demands to keep the diagonal runways in service, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans has proposed to rotate the runways that are used at night in an effort to spread out the noise that many residents say keeps them from getting a good night's sleep.

Members of the coalition have called that proposal — which still must be approved by the FAA — insufficient since it offers no daytime relief North and Northwest Side residents who say they can no longer enjoy their yards or nearby parks because of the hundreds of flights soaring over areas that heard little to no jet noise before an east-west runway opened in October 2013.

The next east-west runway is expected to open Oct. 15, officials said

The diagonal runway on the west side of the airport is scheduled to be closed in 2019.

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