Suburban towns to hire experts to combat O'Hare noise
A coalition of suburban towns is assembling a panel of experts to fight noise from O'Hare International Airport.
Members of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a group of 11 governmental entities in Northwest suburban Cook County and northern DuPage County, could hire technical and legal aviation consultants as early as next month who will provide advice on ways to make the skies around the airport and in their communities less noisy.
Commission Chairman Craig Johnson, the mayor of Elk Grove Village who fought airport expansion for years, said commission members want to do their homework before approaching the city of Chicago and Federal Aviation Administration with proposals to reduce airport noise.
Commission members met Tuesday but aren't expected to approve contracts with consultants until their next meeting Feb. 10.
"O'Hare expansion is happening. It's going to happen. We lost that battle," Johnson said. "We're not here to stop expansion. We're here to make the expanded airport into a better neighbor."
Johnson said he's talked to a half dozen experts who have expertise on air traffic, flight paths, noise measuring and soundproofing.
One idea could be to implement a mandatory "fly-quiet" program that could penalize airlines for increased noise during overnight hours. Johnson said that and other ideas being discussed aren't "reinventing the wheel" but have been put in place at other airports across the country.
The commission still has $190,000 remaining from a sound mitigation grant it received a decade ago that could be used to pay some of the consultant costs. Member towns of the commission could be asked to contribute additional funds, Johnson said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Marty Moylan is putting together a panel of his own to address the O'Hare noise issue. Moylan says he's reached out to the Suburban O'Hare Commission, O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, elected officials, and residents to join the committee. He's scheduled the group's first meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at Park Ridge city hall.
The commission, using Elk Grove Village letterhead, put out a news release calling Moylan's meeting "premature" since the commission is still gathering facts and data to develop solutions to airport noise. Johnson believes his group should take the lead role.
"We've been the one entity that's truly been out there addressing this issue and the only entity putting our money where our mouth is," Johnson said. "We know we have impact from the city to the suburbs. We now want to get people in place we can work with, sit down with Chicago and O'Hare and say, 'Hey, here's remedies out there.'"
Moylan, whose 55th state House district includes Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines and Park Ridge, said it's fine if the commission wants to take the lead, but Moylan wants all groups to be involved.
"I can't say one group is better than another," Moylan said. "Certainly one group has a lot more experience, and we appreciate that. We're working with SOC. We're working with all groups. It's important to get something resolved for the residents."
Members of the Suburban O'Hare Commission include Elk Grove Village, Bensenville, Wood Dale, Itasca, Elmhurst, Addison, Roselle, Hanover Park, Schiller Park, DuPage County and Elk Grove Township.