Pyke: O'Hare neighbors sound off as state seeks voice in noise debate

 
 
Posted4/20/2015 5:30 AM
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  • Crowded skies over Palatine and other suburbs are creating a din for homeowners. Now the Illinois Senate is getting involved with a pair of bills that aim to reduce noise from above for some suburban residents.

      Crowded skies over Palatine and other suburbs are creating a din for homeowners. Now the Illinois Senate is getting involved with a pair of bills that aim to reduce noise from above for some suburban residents. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, October 2011

After sitting on the sidelines, state senators are trying to grab the attention of Chicago and the FAA with two tough-talking pieces of legislation on O'Hare noise that passed unanimously last week.

But what happens in the House this week is a question mark.

The legislation seeks to distribute aircraft over four diagonal runways and new parallel runways, instead of the mainly east-west pattern O'Hare adopted in late 2013, explained Sen. John Mulroe, a Chicago Democrat and the bill's sponsor. The east-west shift is causing a ruckus for homeowners not just close to the airport but as far away as Kane County.

What's next? Interestingly, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, scooped up both bills Thursday, taking Mulroe by surprise.

Now, the legislation is sitting in the Rules Committee, where some bills move on and others quietly die. I'm still waiting to hear from Currie, but a spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner gave an opaque answer when asked if he would sign the bills into law.

"The governor will carefully consider any legislation that crosses his desk," Catherine Kelly said.

Wood Dale's Vanessa Rocha had no such reticence.

"All I can say is that I can't sleep," she wrote. "I can't have a conversation in my own home and overall I fear for all the pollution that is affecting my children. Summertime comes and I cannot get a quiet or at least a relaxing day in my backyard without saying 'Wait, I can't hear you!' I fear my house will fall down on me and that one day a plane is going to be so low I will end up on the wing of the plane.

"If another runway opens I am going to go crazy. I have been wanting to put a sign in my yard that says, 'Shut up, let me sleep.'"

Your voice

Here are some other comments from readers:

Carol Grom of Sleepy Hollow was used to the occasional jet, "but it wasn't a problem." The start of the parallel runway system in late 2013 changed everything.

"Noise levels increased and became near constant," Grom said. "I am often awakened by the sound of jets, and jet noise has become the soundtrack of my life. Outside, working in my yard no longer provides a peaceful respite. The din of jets drowns out the quieter sounds of bird song.

"Just because we are not next door to the airport does not mean that we aren't suffering from excessive noise! No one ever asked us how we felt about it or notified us of any public impact hearings. Who owns the air? Is there no right to peace and quiet in one's own home?"

For a different perspective, Roy Marzano finds airplane noise has decreased in his neighborhood. "We have lived in Rolling Meadows for 35 years," Marzano wrote. "The takeoffs and landings ... were a constant distraction all these years, but we survived. The question is: Do we want growth and jobs or country living? If it's country living -- Rockford is a great place to live."

Bill Douba of Palatine remembers "several years ago, the Daily Herald printed a map of the new runway configuration. Anyone who bothered to look clearly saw what areas, towns that would be affected. That was the time to scream and yell. All of us who have lived in Arlington, Rolling Meadows and Palatine, put up with the noise ... for 50-plus years so now let the other suburbs enjoy what we endured. At least they were forewarned. We had zero say in the matter."

But Laura La Belle of Bloomingdale called the plane noise "unbearable."

"Last summer I started keeping track of the noise when I went to bed one night," she wrote. "From 10:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. planes could be heard every three to four minutes! So many sounded like they were landing in my backyard! If the windows are open, it's awful. I'm turning the television volume up or pausing until the planes pass because it's impossible to even hear -- and no, I don't have any hearing impediments!"

You should know

Senate Bill 636 would allow 10 runways to operate at O'Hare instead of the current eight. That means four existing diagonals and six parallels, one of which will be finished this year and another supposed to be built by 2020.

Senate Bill 637 would prohibit Chicago from decommissioning two diagonal runways that used to handle a chunk of flights.

Got opinions on O'Hare noise? I know you do. Drop me an email at mpyke@dailyherald.com.

Gridlock alert

Sorry, Kane County. You can expect delays at the Route 72 (Higgins Road) bridge over I-90 in Gilberts until the end of the year. Traffic will be down to one lane over I-90 as the Illinois tollway replaces the structure.

Upcoming

All will be revealed about the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (Route 390) extension project from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday during an open house at Wood Dale Junior High School, 655 N. Wood Dale Road. The event is sponsored by the Illinois tollway.

Pedal power

Want to cycle but stymied by visions of aggressive drivers and intense traffic? The Active Transportation Alliance will help you get your sea legs with classes starting May 9, June 13, July 11 and Aug. 8. The course is 1½ hours in the classroom and 1½ hours on the road. Although the location is at 9 W. Hubbard St. in Chicago, suburban cyclists will learn lots of skills such as tips on choosing a bike, basic maintenance and traffic survival. Instructors are licensed by the League of American Bicyclists. The cost is $15 for ATA members and $50 for nonmembers. For info, go to activetrans.org/safecyclingclass.

Transit: Two bills in state Senate address O'Hare runways

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