How you can make your voice heard over O'Hare noise
"I need to know how the future openings of O'Hare runways will affect where I live," writes Glen Ellyn resident Kevin Carlson. "Will I experience more traffic, less traffic, or the same as now?"
That's what many in the shadow of the nation's busiest airport want to know -- and it's why folks concerned about jet noise should hurry over to one of four FAA forums this week.
Chicago's pivot to a parallel (east/west) runway system in late 2013 resulted in a relentless racket for neighborhoods close to the airport and bafflement for isolated pockets as far out as St. Charles hit with haphazard aircraft din.
Currently, about 10,359 housing units in Chicago and the suburbs near O'Hare get consistent airplane noise of 65 decibels or louder, which means it's so severe they qualify for soundproofing aid.
But that status quo, unsatisfactory to many, will change Oct. 15 when a fifth parallel runway on the south airfield opens to handle arrivals from the west. Flights will be shuffled around, redistributing runway use and reducing the number of homes in the worst noise zone down to 9,502.
Don't get too excited, however. In 2020, Chicago is supposed to open a sixth parallel runway on the north airfield and begin extending an existing one. The runway under construction will be closed for about nine months, which means a total of 10,670 homes fall into the 65-plus decibel footprint.
When the final runway project extension finishes in 2021, FAA projections indicate 6,754 housing units will ring in at 65 decibels or higher.
Confused? Dubious? Another reason to attend the FAA open houses.
"If there's something you need more details on, the FAA and consultants will be able to figure it out," agency spokesman Tony Molinaro said.
The biggest test Chicago and FAA experts may face, however, is not diagramming flights but overcoming skepticism and downright anger on the part of some residents.
"People don't trust big government," said Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek, chairwoman of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.
"If you're not an engineer or schooled in operations management you may not be able to think comprehensively about the impact of what you're asking for.
"But you should never discount passion and anxiety about an issue. We need to work very hard to prove we're hearing people and taking their concerns seriously."
One reason for the lack of clarity could be how airplane sound is rated and displayed on maps where the 65-decibel contour resembles an amoeba.
To fall within the 65 DNL, the government uses a formula to calculate the average day/night sound level over a 24-hour period for a year, giving greater weight to nighttime noise. That's how it determines where grant money for soundproofing goes, Molinaro said.
"It doesn't mean if you're outside the (contour) line, you don't hear noise," he noted.
And that's where Carlson falls in, along with others in St. Charles, Campton Hills, Winfield, West Chicago and other suburbs not in the 65 DNL.
"If there is any consolation it's that (airplanes) are not flying over my house every day. I have no idea when or why the pattern changes, but when they do come, they come in a steady procession for hours," Carlson wrote.
The FAA forums run from 1 to 9 p.m. on Monday at White Eagle Banquets, 6839 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles; 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.
You should know
One more thing
The noise compatibility commission has been asked by Chicago to find a consensus on a plan to rotate nighttime arrivals and departures on two designated runways that will switch every week or so. Juracek said she expects to set up an ad hoc committee and consult with the Suburban O'Hare Commission, a longtime watchdog group.
Big traffic disruptions are expected on weekends this month as IDOT rebuilds the Jane Byrne (Circle) Interchange.
For starters, the exit ramp from the inbound Kennedy to Congress Parkway will close the evening of Aug. 19 until the morning of Aug. 31.
Later, on the weekends of Aug. 21 to 23 and Aug. 28 to 30, expect the following angst:
• Starting at 10 p.m. Fridays, the lanes leading to eastbound Congress Parkway from the Eisenhower will close. Drivers will be detoured to the Dan Ryan Expressway and Roosevelt Road.
• The outbound Eisenhower at the Jane Byrne Interchange will close by 5 a.m. both Saturdays. Detours will be posted.
IDOT promises a return to normal by 5 a.m. Mondays.
• Starting at 8 p.m. Saturdays, traffic will be down to one lane in both directions on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan between Ohio Street and 18th Street through 10 a.m. Sunday. For extra fun, all lanes will be closed for 15-minute intervals between 10 p.m. Saturdays and 7 a.m. Sundays.
Tackle public transit
Football season's coming like a Metra train. Suburban fans can take CTA No. 128 or No. 130 buses to Bears games at Soldier Field from Ogilvie Transportation Center or Union Station.
Metra will also add cars to inbound and outbound trains on game days.