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posted: 7/2/2014 1:01 AM

Editorial: O'Hare noise complaints deserve action

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

The economic success of the suburbs has been linked to the vitality of O'Hare International Airport for the last 60 years. We have been supportive of expansion efforts at O'Hare for that reason.

However, we also have urged cooperation among all the interested parties on airport issues that affect the quality of life of residents living near the second-busiest airport in the nation.

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In that vein, we support efforts to open up a dialogue about noise created by the ongoing expansion at the airport, specifically from the new runway opened last fall. Unfortunately, those efforts so far are falling on deaf ears at the Federal Aviation Administration. All sides need to grapple with this situation and help alleviate the noise that residents say was not what they expected -- or were told it would be -- when the runway opened.

"Sound levels are so intense you can't sleep, talk, have guests over, eat a meal, watch TV, listen to music, or even think," Eileen Schultz of Itasca wrote, as reported by Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke this week. Similar comments came from residents of Schaumburg, Glen Ellyn and Hampshire. as the flight patterns have shifted to an east-west alignment.

The FAA, for its part, says plenty of hearings were held on the environmental impacts and residents had a chance to speak as the expansion plans were developed. But that official bureaucratic response discounts what actually is happening today, and the FAA should be willing to listen again to real-life accounts and determine whether any compromises can be reached.

That's what Democratic U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky are seeking. We agree with them.

"There have been enough new developments ... that merit a new look for an environmental-impact statement," Quigley spokeswoman Laura Sisemore told Pyke. Among those new developments are FAA rules changes that shifted even more traffic to the new runway.

Said Duckworth last month: "It is crucial that improvements at O'Hare do not hurt the quality of life for my neighbors."

Interestingly, noise complaints are no longer just a suburban phenomenon. Because of the shift in flight patterns, complaints are coming from the city as well. That's caught the attention of Chicago Department of Aviation, though they are suggesting the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission hear the complaints while others want the FAA to act directly to mitigate the increased noise pollution.

State lawmakers are also getting involved, seeking a new study on O'Hare-related noise.

However it's handled and by what agency or governing body, it's clear that a fresh look at what's happening in the wake of expansion and new rules governing flights is necessary and some form of relief is due residents.

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