New law aims to provide jet noise relief

  • A new state law intends to increase the amount of soundproofing funding available.

    A new state law intends to increase the amount of soundproofing funding available. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/30/2015 7:22 PM

A new state law aims to reduce O'Hare airplane noise with a dual approach of seeking more funding for soundproofing and allowing two diagonal runways to remain open.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the law Thursday after a somewhat bumpy ride in Springfield for the original bill.


State Rep. Christine Winger, a Republican from Wood Dale and one of the bill's co-sponsors, referred to the noise as a "quality of life" issue.

"People's lives are profoundly impacted by the adverse noise from the airport and we will continue our efforts to provide them relief," she said in a statement Thursday.

The version of the bill signed by Rauner raises the number of runways O'Hare International Airport can use from eight to 10. Chicago switched to a parallel runway system in October 2013, which dramatically shifted noise patterns around the suburbs and resulted in a chorus of complaints.

Anti-noise advocates have demanded the city continue to use two diagonal runways that handled myriad flights before the new system went live.

One of the diagonal runways is supposed to be retired in August, and a second would be decommissioned in 2019.

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The new law encourages use of all the runways by updating the O'Hare Modernization Plan to allow four diagonals and six parallels to operate at a time.

However, the state doesn't have power to order what runways are used -- that's up to Chicago, which owns O'Hare, and the Federal Aviation Authority, whose air traffic controllers guide pilots to runways.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is expected to respond to complaints about jet noise and runway usage in a report Friday.

"While it is unfortunate that the decommissioning process began prior to these meetings being held, I am optimistic that all involved parties will be able to walk away at the end of this process satisfied," said state Sen. John Mulroe, a Democrat who represents part of Des Plaines and was a sponsor of the legislation.

The other aspect of the bill seeks a different method be used to measure loud jet noise at night. Known as the Community Equivalent Noise Level, it extends the metric from the current 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. standard to a new 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. period.

That is expected to allow more homes to qualify for soundproofing but requires finalization with the FAA, Chicago and the state.

Originally lawmakers had hoped to forbid retiring the diagonal runways, but that policy languished and was revised.

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