Bensenville neighbors on O'Hare runway plans: Maybe time to move
Got an earful of that racket overhead?
O'Hare International Airport neighbors in Bensenville and neighboring communities have a name for what happens next.
"It's called the Bensenville pause," says the Rev. Catherine Balk, pastor of Faith Community United Church of Christ on Center Street.
It's the moment residents stop in their tracks and wait, because either airplane noise is too loud to hear or say anything or they have to simmer down.
"What will happen to our community? People are moving away," Balk said. "People are giving up because they don't want any more of this -- the noise."
Those kinds of questions motivated Balk to attend the third forum hosted this week by the FAA, which is re-evaluating plans to build and extend runways at the airport. Roughly 900 people attended the first two forums in Niles and Chicago, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.
Federal aviation experts and consultants were on hand Wednesday to navigate noise-weary homeowners through highly technical graphs, videos and noise contours at a banquet hall in Bensenville.
"I don't like the looks of what they're saying," said William Oswald, a 71-year-old from Wood Dale.
O'Hare began using an east-west, parallel runway system in 2013, prompting protests about noise over Bensenville and other towns.
"We can't just sit here and say status quo is OK," Village President Frank Soto said.
In October, the city of Chicago plans to open a fifth parallel runway on O'Hare's far south end. On the north side, a sixth parallel runway and the extension of an existing one are on track to go live in 2020 and 2021, respectively, as part of O'Hare's modernization project.
The resulting configuration will better distribute flights and the noise, Chicago officials say.
All three runways were supposed to be complete around the same time, but they were delayed amid a dispute between the city and the airlines over financing the work. That led the FAA to re-evaluate the plans.
Chicago, meanwhile, is scheduled to close one diagonal runway Aug. 20 and another in 2019. While Soto and members of noise watchdog groups say those runways should remain open until the project is complete, O'Hare's new chief says the diagonals pose safety hazards because of converging flight paths.
"A diagonal should continue to be engaged or used whenever possible to create relief for everybody until those runways are done and then transition them," Soto said. "But just don't tear them out just because they are diagonals, because they can still get use."
Mary Medina inched up to one of the graphics and traced the blue noise contours near her home on Church Road in Bensenville. After more than 45 years there, Medina doesn't plan to stick around until the runways are done.
"South Dakota looks better and better every day," she said.
Mary Larsen, a schoolteacher in Bensenville who lives on Addison Street, came to a similar conclusion and was disappointed in the technical jargon presented at the forum. As their home values continue to slide, Larsen said she wants to move -- "Is there any place quiet?" -- sooner than later.
"I don't plan to be around," she said.
The last forum will be from 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Belvedere Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave., Elk Grove Village.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report