O'Hare noise commission hits milestone amid discontent about jet din

Even as O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission officials celebrated a $20 million soundproofing grant and 20 years of striving to ameliorate the din from jets, frazzled residents demanded more action at a Friday meeting.

Susan Brinskelle of Wood Dale considers herself "fortunate" to live in a soundproofed home but "it's not the golden ticket everyone makes it out to be," she said. When cargo jets zoom overhead, "my house still shakes," and when her family swims in their outdoor pool, "we can't talk to each other."

Meanwhile, an overnight runway rotation test intended to more evenly distribute noise overnight is disrupting the sleep of Des Plaines homeowners, Des Plaines Alderman Malcolm Chester said.

"For my people, it's not helpful," said Chester, a noise commission member.

Other residents called for a review of the federal limit of 65 decibels that triggers soundproofing funding, an action that the Federal Aviation Administration is undertaking and is expected to be completed this year.

Complaints about the racket from O'Hare International Airport jets rose from 415,778 in May to 483,443 in June, the latest data from the Chicago Aviation Department indicated. People reporting noise decreased from 75,050 in May to 70,256 in June.

Noise complaints in general shot up after the city switched to a parallel/east-west system of flights in 2013 that reduced use of O'Hare's diagonal runways. The outcry is one reason the city is testing the six-month overnight runway rotation, which started in July.

"The point is to share the burden and the benefit," said noise commission Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek. "I wish there was a magic bullet."

Since the commission was conceived 20 years ago, the area around O'Hare getting 65 decibels or higher of airplane noise has shrunk, Juracek said.

Despite those numbers, emotions are running high for residents suffering from the racket and a shouting match cut short an ONCC committee meeting Aug. 15.

As a result, Juracek introduced new "rules of decorum," which warn that anyone making "offensive, insulting, threatening, insolent, slanderous or obscene remarks," or who is boisterous, threatening or disturbs public order and security could be removed.

The rules also limit public comments to agenda items or issues related to jet noise at O'Hare.

Resident Dan Dwyer of Medinah said screening public comments is misguided, adding that "it isn't always a comfortable process ... but people engaging the ONCC are an important part of the process."

Meanwhile, four new governments - Addison, Elmhurst, South Barrington and Fenton School District 100 - joined the noise commission Friday.

Chicago officials also announced that diagonal runway 14-Right/32-Left, one of two being decommissioned by the city, will be renamed 15-33 effective Thursday. The runway will be closed in 2018 to make way for a new one on the north airfield. A second diagonal, 14-Left-32-Right has already been retired.

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