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Noise Complaints at O'Hare Skyrocket


Watch the video: Is relief coming to neighborhoods pounded by O'Hare jet noise?  The issue may be coming to a head.


The decibel levels around O’Hare International Airport skyrocketed two years ago after a change in flight paths, but recently there have been several developments in the ongoing battle to reduce the noise.

Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration released a new analysis saying it found no environmental problems with a new east-west runway scheduled to open at O'Hare in October. That conclusion added to the worries of neighboring residents who've had to endure the ramped-up noise levels. However, the city of Chicago has met with community groups and says it is taking noise complaints seriously.

Complaints about jet noise at O’Hare topped more than 400,000 in May, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation's Airport Noise Management System. (See map, below.)

Joining us to discuss these changes at O'Hare are U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, The Daily Herald transportation reporter Marni Pyke, and Colleen Mulcrone, a northwest side resident and member of FAiR Allocation in Runways who worked on the legislation signed by Rauner.

Friday update

The Chicago Department of Aviation on Friday unveiled a plan to address complaints about jet noise at O'Hare International Airport. Four key areas were identified in a news release issued by the CDA. They are: abatement, mitigation, communication and reporting, and citizen involvement.

Commissioner Ginger S. Evans issued this statement in the CDA release:

“The solutions released today are the product of months of analysis, and collaboration with community groups and aviation experts. We know that airport noise is a challenge for many residents, but we are confident that we can move forward with concrete steps to ensure a higher quality of life for O’Hare’s neighbors, while maximizing the safety and efficiency of the world’s busiest airport. The city takes very seriously the impact of airport noise, but we are required to balance that with the impact on the thousands of people who rely upon O’Hare each day.”

The report, citing nighttime noise as a main area of concern for the CDA and communities surrounding O'Hare, states that the CDA will balance runway use at night between the north and south runways, and also east-flow and west-flow traffic.

Read the full news release.

Other recent developments

On Thursday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that will increase the number of runways allowed at O’Hare from 8 to 10 in an effort to reduce jet noise affecting some neighborhoods and suburbs.

One of the airport's diagonal runways is scheduled to close on August 20, and another is scheduled to be shut down in 2019. However, anti-noise groups are lobbying to keep these runways open in order to more evenly distribute the air traffic noise.

In October 2013, the airport adjusted its runway configuration as part of the O'Hare expansion plan, moving away from mostly diagonal runways to an east-west parallel system. This was done to increase the airport's capacity and reduce the potential for crashes, but resulted in a significant shift in aircraft noise.

But earlier this month, the FAA released a study which re-evaluated the expansion plan. Results of the study indicated that the projected increase in flights at the airport didn’t occur.

Tracking complaints

The Chicago Department of Aviation releases monthly reports to the O’Hare Compatibility Commission members based on the Airport Noise Management System. The most recent report released by the CDA is for May 2015

Below is an interactive map of permanent noise monitors (red icons) and number of complaints (in blue) reported by 50 communities in May 2015.

Tip: Use the zoom in (+) and out (-) buttons to get a more- or less- detailed look.

The following chart illustrates a comparison of city ward complaints for the month of May 2014 versus the month of May 2015.

Public meetings

The FAA conducts public meetings on the The Draft Re-Evaluation from August 10-14 at various locations in the city and suburbs. Daily meetings take place from 1:00-9:00 pm. For meeting locations and other details, visit the FAA web site.