Pyke: O'Hare noise rising as suburban election issue

  • Airplanes are too close for comfort for many suburbanites.

    Airplanes are too close for comfort for many suburbanites. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, August 2014

Updated 1/12/2015 3:29 PM

The jet cacophony from new runways at O'Hare is making noise in some municipal elections, but whether the suburbs can apply leverage against Chicago and the Federal Aviation Administration is an open question.

That doesn't deter candidates such as Malcolm Chester, who's running for Des Plaines alderman.


Chester thinks property tax breaks to homeowners suffering from noise could help. "After all, their property value has declined as a result of the increased traffic," Chester said.

New runways and the switch to an east/west flow in 2013 have created havoc for suburban and northwest Chicago residents living in the flight path.

Ideas to alleviate pain are floating around the affected suburbs, including Wood Dale and Schiller Park. And airport angst has also become an issue in Chicago's mayoral election.

Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, who is seeking to topple powerful incumbent Rahm Emanuel, thinks a solution lies at one of the region's loneliest airports, Gary/Chicago International.

"The city pays millions to Gary for Gary International Airport ... we should be putting a lot of our freight (airplanes) over there," Fioretti said. "That would take away a lot of our problems."

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"It's a regional issue that affects everyone ... I understand suburbanites are getting this. We need to take an active role to ensure citizens of this city and the suburbs are protected."

I asked the Emanuel campaign for a comment and was referred to the city's Department of Aviation.

"We are sensitive to those concerns and together with local elected officials, we are working with federal partners to understand the extent and magnitude of the noise issue, while balancing the economic benefits and jobs at O'Hare with the quality of life for residents in communities surrounding the airport," DOA spokeswoman Karen Pride said.

The city supports having the FAA review the 65 DNL (decibel) national standard and "has spent nearly $700 million to sound-insulate homes in the communities neighboring both airports," she added.

Those affected by the new noise patterns say that is not enough, and the lack of suburban clout to quiet the din is even causing friction at the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.


Like its name suggests, ONCC was formed to find common ground with municipalities, Chicago and the FAA.

But at a Friday ONCC meeting, Schiller Park Village President Barbara Piltaver criticized those two entities, noting "until the city of Chicago and FAA finally realize they're subjecting every resident to a slow death, nothing is going to happen."

That municipal frustration may be responsible for the re-emergence of an old O'Hare nemesis, the Suburban O'Hare Commission.

Led by former Bensenville Village President John Geils, the feisty group battled Chicago in court for years over O'Hare expansion. SOC had a low profile for a few years. But that could change in 2015, I'm told. The priorities of SOC (whose members including Elk Grove Village and Bensenville) could include hiring an aviation noise expert.

You should know

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Your voice

Frank Leo of Palatine writes about my recent series on hazardous materials releases involving trains.

"When you listed the series of hazardous chemicals, you listed many volatile fuels and solvents, as well as acids," Leo wrote. "Although all these chemicals are dangerous ... there are two acids that are particularly dangerous -- sulfuric acid and hydrofluoric acid. I think that there should be special safeguards built in the tank wagons particularly designed to limit the spills of the chemicals they carry."

One more thing

To set the record straight from last week's 2015 predictions column, UIC transportation expert Steve Schlickman forecasts that "the state under the leadership of Gov. Rauner will for the first time since the Gov. (Jim) Thompson administration enact a new multiyear multibillion transportation capital bill as the old one, Illinois Jobs Now, ends. Since Thompson we have only had a new five-year transportation bill every 10 years," Schlickman said.

"Gov. Ryan led the enactment of such a bill 10 years after Thompson did with a five-year lapse from the end of the Thompson programs. (Gov. Pat) Quinn did the same approximately 10 years after Ryan with a five-year lapse."


Seems like everyone's got a committee about noisy planes these days. At 7 p.m. Feb. 12, State Rep. Marty Moylan, a Des Plaines Democrat, holds his first O'Hare Airport Noise Advisory Committee meeting at Park Ridge city hall, 505 Butler Place. To find out more, call (847) 635-6821 or email

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