Residents near O'Hare unsatisfied after first hearing on noise
There was no lack of information at the first of four FAA forums on O'Hare runways in Niles Monday, but despite the abundance of charts, diagrams and maps, few satisfied customers walked out.
Among those concerned about jet noise that a fifth new parallel runway on the south airfield will create when it's commissioned Oct. 15 was a contingent from Bensenville.
"We anticipate some very unhappy residents with this addition," Village Manager Michael Cassady said. "We're trying to figure out some operational ways we can improve that."
A sixth runway and extension of an existing one are supposed to be finished on the north side of O'Hare in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Chicago's shift to a new parallel runway system that uses an east/west flight flow triggered a flood of noise complaints from neighborhoods near O'Hare and as far away as West Chicago when it began in fall 2013. The city has projected that six parallel runways will more evenly distribute noise, be safer and increase efficiency.
A steady stream of people filed into the open house at White Eagle Banquets in Niles and hundreds more are expected to attend others in Chicago, Bensenville and Elk Grove Village this week.
Joy and Phil Parisi were unhappy realizing that the city's final parallel runway isn't expected to be complete until 2020 or so.
"Another five years of this is really disheartening," said Parisi, a Chicagoan.
Cassady agreed it's a hard sell asking people tired of the airplane din to wait five to six years -- when Chicago and the FAA expect to be using all six east/west runways.
"Right now conditions in Bensenville during the interim are unbearable," Cassady said.
The newest runway, which will handle aircraft arrivals from the west, will worsen the racket for Bensenville residents in its flight path, which is west over the village's downtown and Fenton High School, he predicted.
The bright spot is once the north airfield is complete "allocation and distribution becomes more fair and residents will see some relief," Cassady said.
The official modernization plan intended for all three runways to wrap up around the same time, but United and American Airlines have pushed back against the north airfield projects because of finances.
That triggered the Federal Aviation Administration to produce a re-evaluation of the entire plan that's on view at the forums.
New Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans has proposed a rotation system for night flights that would use a designated runway for arrivals and one for departures on alternating weeks.
While members of the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a noise watchdog group that includes Bensenville and Elk Grove Village, have warmed up to that idea, another advocacy organization -- Fair Allocation in Runways -- issued a thumbs-down.
FAIR also called the re-evaluation flawed because it failed to include use of two diagonal runways that Chicago intends to close but that the group thinks will balance noise more equitably.
Evans said the diagonal runways are unsafe and inefficient.
Chicago resident Linda Maher has jets roaring over her house but isn't in a 65-decibel-and-greater zone that qualifies people for federal soundproofing aid.
"We're not going to see relief unless that standard is lowered," she said.
Other forums are Tuesday at Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago; Wednesday at Monty's Banquets, 703 S. York Road, Bensenville; and Thursday at Belvedere Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave., Elk Grove Village.