New legislation could help with O'Hare plane noise

DuPage County panel identifies measures to support

  • Bensenville Village Manager Mike Cassady explains how noise from O'Hare International Airport is impacting neighborhoods in Bensenville. Cassady spoke during a Wednesday night meeting of the DuPage County Board's ad hoc committee on airport noise mitigation.

      Bensenville Village Manager Mike Cassady explains how noise from O'Hare International Airport is impacting neighborhoods in Bensenville. Cassady spoke during a Wednesday night meeting of the DuPage County Board's ad hoc committee on airport noise mitigation. Robert Sanchez | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/13/2014 5:32 AM

For more than two decades, Jeanne Otero enjoyed her Wood Dale home without the problem of jet noise from O'Hare International Airport.

The situation for Otero -- and thousands of other suburban residents -- changed in October 2013, when the opening of a new runway shifted air traffic from moving in multiple directions to an east/west flow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now Otero says a steady stream of airplanes can be heard inside her house even though it's been soundproofed. The deafening noise outside means she can't use her yard.

"You can't ever go out," she said. "It's horrible."

On Wednesday night, a group of DuPage County Board members learned the county could help residents like Otero by supporting a proposed state law change and lobbying Chicago to update O'Hare's noise compatibility plan.

"Any advocacy the county can provide would be greatly appreciated," Bensenville Village Manager Mike Cassady said to the county board's ad hoc committee on airport noise mitigation.

The panel has been directed to provide insight and direction on the issue of increased noise created by air traffic at O'Hare.

Speaking during the committee's inaugural meeting, Cassady said the key to addressing the problem is to collaborate and form coalitions.

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"This can't just be a Bensenville issue," he said. "It can't just be a Wood Dale issue. This is a metropolitan issue that's impacting many residents throughout this area."

One way the county could assist is by supporting state legislation that would change the way airport noise is measured in Illinois.

Illinois measures airplane noise using the Day Night Average Sound Level, or DNL, metric. Cassady said the hope is that the state will adopt the Community Noise Equivalent Level, or CNEL, metric.

If the CNEL metric were used, noise occurring between 7 and 10 p.m. would be factored in more. That could lead to a larger noise contour.

"The upside -- besides recognizing a best practice for noise measurement -- is more residents throughout the metro area ... would be eligible to gain federal funds for soundproofing," Cassady said.

In addition to lobbying state lawmakers to adopt the CNEL metric, DuPage could help appeal to Chicago, which owns O'Hare.

Cassady said officials would like Chicago to formally ask the Federal Aviation Administration to update O'Hare's so-called "Part 150" noise compatibility plan. A Part 150 provides a comprehensive process to address airport noise impacts in the vicinity of the airport, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The last time that analysis was done for O'Hare was in 1989.

"The material in that (study) was really done in the mid-1980s," Cassady said. "The operation of the airport is significantly different from that time period."

Also, county board member Paul Fichtner, who is chairman of the ad hoc panel, said an expert could be hired to study airports around the country and see if they have noise mitigation plans that could be replicated here.

In the meantime, Cassady said Chicago is planning to put an additional noise monitor in Bensenville. Itasca also is expected to get another noise monitor.

Finally, a meeting between area mayors and FAA officials is scheduled to happen sometime in February.

As she left Wednesday's meeting, Otero said she's "encouraged" by what she heard. "This is the first meeting I've been to where there's actually a plan that's been identified," she said.

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