New plan for nighttime O'Hare jet traffic distresses Elmhurst, Des Plaines

A new overnight runway rotation plan at O'Hare International Airport is headed for approval, but there's dissension among communities whose residents are seeking a good night's rest.

The rotation would end up putting flights on three parallel runways 74 percent of the time, which would direct noise over communities to the east and to the west like Wood Dale and Bensenville.

The remaining 26 percent of aircraft would depart or arrive on two smaller diagonal runways, which distressed leaders from Elmhurst and Des Plaines, which are in those paths. The plan was approved by an O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission committee Friday.

"Any additional air traffic will impact my community," Elmhurst Alderman Michael Brown said, and Alderman Bob Dunn said the plan had only come out Thursday.

"We're rushing the process," he said.

The overnight rotation is intended to distribute jet noise evenly around the region but striking a balance has proved challenging.

Chicago Alderman John Arena warned against what he called "tribal thinking - 'what's only good for us and who cares about the guy a block away.'"

Three other concepts were also considered, two that would have used parallel runways 83 percent of the time and diagonal runways 17 percent, and another submitted by Elmhurst.

Fly Quiet committee members from Bensenville, Harwood Heights, Niles, River Grove, Schaumburg, Schiller Park, and two Chicago wards voted for the 74 percent to 26 percent option.

Des Plaines Alderman and member Malcolm Chester voted "no." He said it "made no sense" to deploy the smaller, outdated diagonal runways.

The plan will get a final vote Dec. 8, then the Federal Aviation Administration will evaluate it, a process that could take a year.

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