Will government shutdown quiet hearings on O'Hare noise?

Could the federal government shutdown affect whether suburban residents get a good night's sleep? It's possible if hearings set for February on a temporary overnight runway rotation at O'Hare International Airport are postponed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has scheduled local forums Feb. 4 through 7 to explain the rotation plan intended to evenly distribute jet noise. But the workers who would staff those events are furloughed.

Clarification should come later this week, Chicago Department of Aviation Deputy Commissioner Aaron Frame said at an O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission committee meeting Tuesday.

Collateral damage from the shutdown is “becoming real now,” Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said, adding he intended to appeal to local members of Congress.

Despite weeks of furlough, the FAA is prepared, ONCC Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said. “They've got their staffing scheduled, white boards made up and the halls are reserved,” she said. However, if the government reopens, any backlog in critical work could take priority over the forums, Juracek noted.

The ONCC approved the interim rotation plan in 2017, which triggered a substantial FAA review. A draft report is available online at and comments will be accepted through Feb. 27.

The rotation proposal wasn't without controversy because some neighborhoods will be getting unexpected jet noise at night, although supporters say the plan is meant to evenly distribute the din around the region.

The interim conditions would last just 11 months — starting in November 2019 through mid-May 2020, halting for construction, then continuing from mid-September 2020 through January 2021.

The ONCC is developing a more permanent rotation to operate after O'Hare's sixth and final east-west runway is built in November 2020 and another existing one is expanded. Both are located on the north airfield.

Hearing dates include Feb. 4 at Belvedere Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave. in Elk Grove Village, and Feb. 7 at the Diplomat West, 681 W. North Ave. in Elmhurst. Both are 2 to 8 p.m.

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