Editorial: Welcome progress toward consensus on O'Hare noise

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

For residents living near O'Hare International Airport, adding noise to that Benjamin Franklin quote would seem to be in order.

Solutions to the O'Hare noise dilemma have been hard to come by. Deal with it in one town or from one runway and it migrates over to another town from another runway.

To be sure, airplanes are noisy. Couple that with one of the largest and busiest airports in the world and the noise is bound to rattle windows and nerves of those who live nearby.

With that as the backdrop, however, it's heartening to see some movement on noise abatement from those agencies and governments who make decisions at O'Hare affecting the noise that residents deal with on a daily basis.

This week, Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke detailed the shift in tone, especially from the city of Chicago, which in past years was tone deaf to the suburbs' pleas for relief.

"O'Hare has to be a good resident," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said late last month on WTTW's Chicago Tonight as he waged a re-election campaign that saw Northwest Side residents as upset about noise as suburban residents. "Now the solution to this is getting the FAA to expedite its study so we can actually have O'Hare ... to actually have all the runways used at an appropriate time."

Sounds good. At least in theory. One thing that many believe would help is to keep open diagonal runways that will take some of the pressure off the new east-west runways that have dumped the noise on towns not used to that air traffic.

It's unfortunate the noise had to get unbearable before options like that were considered. Meanwhile, the suburbs are working on their own solutions - doing their homework first before getting to the city, the state or the Federal Aviation Administration. It's a smart move. They need to arm themselves with good data in order to effect the changes that might be needed.

"There's no light switches you can turn on or off, but there's a lot incremental options out there,' said Bensenville Village President Frank Soto, the vice chairman of the Suburban O'Hare Commission.

Other options being studied include altering the decibel levels needed to be eligible for federally funded soundproofing.

Finally, we must agree with Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek, the new chairman of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission. The group has 55 members, including six Chicago wards.

While acknowledging that fewer areas are now affected by noise, she also said, "We cannot ignore the fact that many more residents today are being impacted by noise for the first time. This is a time to build consensus."

Better late than never.

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