No O'Hare airport noise resolution in sight for suburbs

  • The opening of a new runway on O'Hare International Airport's south end has opened a can of worms regarding noise. Now three Chicago-area congressmen are asking the FAA to do something about it.

      The opening of a new runway on O'Hare International Airport's south end has opened a can of worms regarding noise. Now three Chicago-area congressmen are asking the FAA to do something about it. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer, 2013

Updated 6/30/2014 5:33 AM

After complaints from residents that new jet noise had turned their quiet streets into a "Top Gun" set, irked congressmen asked the FAA this month to throw out the O'Hare International Airport expansion plan and start over.

Using words like "failure" and "inaccuracy," U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky took the agency to task. They wondered why homeowners weren't briefed properly on the consequences of new runways back in 2005 and -- this is huge -- urged the FAA to redo its environmental impact study of O'Hare modernization.


That would mean "a new round of public hearings that will afford vigorous citizen input," the lawmakers wrote.

But so far, the FAA is sticking to its (administrative) guns.

The 2005 three-year study to develop the O'Hare modernization environmental impact statement "was one of the most comprehensive environmental analyses the FAA has ever conducted," the agency stated. "The primary displays and data presented during the public hearings ... portrayed an accurate picture of the environmental impacts of the O'Hare project."

That cuts no ice with the congressional delegation, Quigley spokeswoman Laura Sisemore said.

"At this point, our office still has never seen any document or heard any account that people were told in plain language that the changes meant hundreds of new flights every day," Sisemore said via email.

"Additionally, there have been enough new developments -- opening runways out of sequence, the new converging runway policy, etc. -- that merit a new look for an environmental-impact statement."

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But can congressional spunkiness budge a massive bureaucracy to change course?

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta hasn't formally replied yet, but judging from the agency's response, the FAA is standing its ground. Multiple meetings were held in 2005 and 2013 that "took place in areas in and around Chicago that were expected to experience the greatest changes in daytime and nighttime noise levels," the FAA said. "Many local residents attended those meetings and had a chance to talk with aviation experts who were able to answer any questions."

I asked aviation expert and DePaul University professor Joseph Schwieterman about the likelihood of going back to square one.

"That would create difficult red tape that would stop work for a painfully long time," Schwieterman said.

The impasse is bad news for suburbanites who've been blasted with noise from a new runway that opened in October 2013, shifting arrivals and departures at O'Hare to an east/west flow.

And it's not just neighborhoods close to O'Hare such as Wood Dale and Bensenville suffering.

• Eileen Schultz of Itasca coexisted peacefully with O'Hare until recently. Now, when arrivals come from the west "sound levels are so intense you can't sleep, talk, have guests over, eat a meal, watch TV, listen to music or even THINK," she wrote.


• Karen Werner of Schaumburg "did not expect the increase in air traffic noise due to the new runways to the extent we are now experiencing. After investing a hefty amount of money updating our backyard into a beautiful 'at-home retreat' last summer, we found we had to move inside over the Memorial Day weekend because we couldn't carry on a conversation," she said.

• Kevin Carlson "never thought that the O'Hare project would affect Wheaton-Glen Ellyn citizens. I don't think there was any mention that a new route pattern would affect our community," he emailed. "Sit out on your deck, work in your yard, try to take a nap in a hammock, the noise draws your attention, unless you are fortunate enough to block it out and not mind."

• Al Boffice of Elk Grove Village thinks "if anyone wants to know how loud and disruptive these aircraft are, just have them stand in the Alexian Brothers parking lot when these planes are arriving EVERY 90 SECONDS for hours at a time!" he wrote. "This time I was here first, in an area that was not subject to the continual noise of aircraft. THEY changed the noise contours and have made living in this area intolerable," Boffice added.

• Last but not least, Ed Piotrowski moved from Bloomingdale to Hampshire but "open the new runway and guess what? The planes have tracked us down, beginning our tumble into a new living hell," he said.

Got an opinion? Write me at or follow me on Twitter at @dhintransit. Got a noise complaint? Contact


Tuesday is V-Day. It's also known as Ventra Day, when Pace and the CTA stop accepting magnetic stripe cards and switch over to the new fare system. To order cards or find retail locations, go to or call (877) 669-8368 (NOW-VENTRA).

Gridlock alert

Headed to lovely Madison to catch the Friday night fish fry?

Wisconsin's Department of Transportation warns visitors to avoid the I-39/I-90/I-94 corridor during weekend rush hour, particularly at Route 151 due to bridge work.

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