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O'Hare Noise Complaints From Chicago Rise, Then Drop During Hot Summer

By Heather Cherone | September 4, 2015 6:26am
 A jet lands at O'Hare Airport in this file photo.
A jet lands at O'Hare Airport in this file photo.
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Getty Images/ File Photo

O'HARE — Complaints about jet noise from Chicago rose 8 percent from May to June but dropped 14 percent from June to July as residents of the Northwest Side continued their campaign to reduce the racket made by planes using the newest east-west runway at O'Hare Airport.

In June, 158,805 complaints were filed by Chicago residents with city officials, according to data released by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

In July, 135,535 complaints were filed by Chicago residents, including 5,864 complaints from just one address, according the commission's July report.

The tally of complaints includes those logged through chicagonoisecomplaint.com, which was designed by Darrin Thomas, a member of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, to allow angry residents to log their anger with one click, rather than fill out the city's long form.

The total number of complaints from city and suburban addresses rose 7 percent from May to June to 436,119, according to the commission. But the total number of complaints dropped 12 percent from June to July, perhaps because people closed their windows and turned on their air conditioning to escape the summer heat.

Source: O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission [DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali]

During both June and July, approximately 35 percent of complaints from both the city and the suburbs were made from 10 addresses, according to the commission.

Complaints can be made by calling a 24-hour hotline — 800-435-9569 — or submitting an online form.

In Chicago, residents of the 41st Ward, which includes Norwood Park, Edgebrook and Edison Park, filed 40,254 complaints in July — more than double than the number of complaints filed by residents of any other Chicago ward, according to the commission.

In October 2013, a new east-west runway opened as part of the $8.7 billion O'Hare Modernization Program, sending hundreds of flights over areas of the Northwest Side like North Park, Jefferson Park Edgebrook, Edison Park and Norwood Park that previously heard little or no jet noise in previous years.

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

Two weeks ago, officials closed the diagonal runway on the east side of O'Hare, despite objections from residents who said it is the only way to reduce jet noise over the Northwest Side.

While the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition sees the diagonal 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.

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.

The O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission will form an ad-hoc committee to review those proposals, which must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration before being implemented.

The coalition has accepted the commission's invitation to join that committee to evaluate those proposals, group leaders said.

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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