And last week, the village of Bensenville, a once-ardent foe of O’Hare expansion that under current leadership has supported new runways, said that cutting airport noise has again become “a top priority.”
The about-face has taken place in the wake of outrage in the village over new flight patterns inaugurated last fall with the opening of another airstrip. Under the changes, most planes now take off toward the west, and the majority of arrivals approach O’Hare from the east. Bensenville is directly west of the new runway.
“My idea is just to welcome some of these big-shot (politicians) to my property. I am going to make a coffee for you. We will sit down for a couple of hours under the planes and talk about it because what is happening now is empty talking,” Bensenville resident Chester Gorniak, 64, said after a meeting Friday of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.
The number of complaints made to a city-operated noise hot line and website reached a new high in March, exceeding 11,000, and totaled almost 25,000 in the first three months of 2014.
During the noise commission meeting, Bensenville Trustee JoEllen Ridder called for ongoing discussions with Chicago and federal aviation officials to address the increasing number of noise complaints from village residents.
“Our goal is to find solutions and implement those solutions as soon as possible to improve the quality of life for our residents,” Bensenville Village President Frank Soto said.
But the Emanuel administration hasn’t acceded to any demands or even been open to talking, critics said.
Leaders of Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, which mainly represents Chicago residents who have experienced increased jet noise, said they haven’t received any responses from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the group’s seven requests for a meeting to discuss increased jet noise and pollution over the Northwest Side of Chicago.
“We are his constituents, and Chicago still is, at least to some degree, a democracy,” said a group leader, Jac Charlier.
FAiR is pushing for the city and the Federal Aviation Administration to spread flights more widely among O’Hare runways to spare neighborhoods that are miles away from the airport — including Sauganash, Norwood Park, Forest Glen, Edgebrook and North Park — from being saturated with the sound of low-flying jetliners.
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, whose district includes O’Hare, said he has talked with Emanuel and Chicago Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino and that their “response has been underwhelming.”
“The Chicago Department of Aviation needs to step up, improve its working relationship and communications with the public, and it must develop a plan to alleviate to the extent possible these noise issues,” Quigley told the Tribune on Friday.
Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd, who chairs the City Council’s aviation committee, has repeatedly said that the public hearing in City Council chambers demanded by O’Connor and Laurino will be held but that scheduling conflicts, including setting a date when Quigley is available to attend, slowed the process.
Quigley said the real problem is “they don’t want the embarrassment of a hearing.”
City officials say they have taken other steps to help affected residents.
Chicago has insulated more than 10,000 residences and about 120 schools around O’Hare since 1996, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
She said the department is “committed to balancing the quality of life for residents in communities surrounding O’Hare with the economic significance of the airport.”
She also said Andolino has met numerous times with Quigley and members of the FAIR Coalition to discuss noise issues.
Andolino has so far flatly rejected calls by residents and elected officials, including Quigley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, to expand the hours of O’Hare’s voluntary guidelines designed to reduce jet noise at night, called a Fly Quiet Program, or diffuse airplane noise over wider areas by shifting runway-usage patterns more often.
Those are among options available in the air-traffic control playbook, FAA officials said, but it’s solely the city’s decision whether to pursue changes.
“If the city and the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission choose to consider other things, then we certainly want to partner with them and listen … in terms of what would be in the best interests of the community,” Barry Cooper, the FAA administrator for the Great Lakes region, told the Tribune on Friday.
The noise commission was created by Chicago years ago to address jet-noise concerns affecting neighborhoods and schools, but critics say it too often simply defends Chicago’s position that increasing flights at O’Hare is in the best interests of the area’s economy.
Cooper said the public should be aware that “the Fly Quiet Program is a product of the city of Chicago. Our responsibility is moving air traffic efficiently and safely.”
The predicted unraveling of the expansion of O’Hare International Airport
The northwest suburbs that sold out to Chicago in exchange for the support of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s ill-conceived expansion of O’Hare International Airport are now paying the price on two fronts:
- A $3.4 billion new tollway (Elgin-O’Hare expressway) that was supposed to lead a new O’Hare western terminal and spur massive economic development in DuPage County is kaput. As predicted by expansion opponents, it now appears that the western terminal will never be built, drowning the plans for economic development. Drivers using the new tollway to bypass O’Hare will end up paying about $20 cents a mile for the privilege, compared with about 6 cents for all other users. The new road is a major reason that tolls were recently doubled for all tollway users.
- Because of the new runways, the noise footprint–again as predicted by expansion opponents–has expanded to communities and even Chicago neighborhoods where it was a small or non-existent problem. The city’s response to the increase complaints is basically, “screw you.”
Details of these news story by the Chicago Tribune transportation writers, Jon Hilkevitch and Richard Wronski, can be found at “O’Hare western access may look like dead-end,” (May 4) and “Pressure on Chicago for O’Hare noise relief,” (May 5).
From the stories, we learn that:
- No airlines have an interest in building the western terminal because of a multitude of reasons, including it would be too far from the main terminal and greatly inconvenience travelers using connecting airlines.
- The promised people mover or extension of the CTA line to a western terminal is too expensive and off the drawing boards. Instead, an unappealing and alternative 45-minute bus ride between the western terminal and the main terminals would be provided.
- There’s no real western entrance, except by a figurative back door leading nowhere, from the so-called by-pass (extension of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway), so how would anyone get to the western terminal anyway?
- The new runways have generated organized opposition to the growing noise problems and demands even from some Chicago aldermen and congressmen who were silent when the O’Hare expansion was being debated. Now–too late–they want something done.
We also are reminded that the additional planned runways probably never will be built because United and American Airlines, the duopoly that virtually controls the airport, has no interest in seeing them built, and certainly no interest in helping pay for them.
We also learn from an earlier Hilkevitch story that, “O’Hare flight patterns changing to reduce risk of collisions,” (May 2). The Federal Aviation Administration for new approach and take-off flight patterns also applies to other airports, but especially to O’Hare, where aviation experts warned that one of the major problems with the expansion was safety. In that:
- The airspace above O’Hare already is crowded, and adding more capacity would not only cause more delays but jeopardize safety.
- The additional runways have increased the number of intersections where the chance of collision is heightened by the increased of number of taxing airplanes that must cross active runways being used by airplanes landing or taking off. Aviation experts agree that the most serious chance of aviation disasters actually occur on the ground in such circumstances.
The Suburban O’Hare Commission and John Geils, the commission’s chairman and ex-president of Bensenville who was the leader of the expansion opposition, had warned about every one of these problems–and much more. Geils got steamrolled by Daley’s minions who engineered the ousting of Geils as Bensenville president and the virtual end of the opposition.
Notably, Bensenville is one of the t suburbs to have been hardest hit by the overwhelming noise from one of the new runways. Geils’ Daley-planted successor, President Frank Soto, now has the cojones to act as if he is moving to solve the problem. “Our goal is to find solutions and implement those solutions as soon as possible to improve the quality of life for our residents,” Soto said. Baloney.
My other posts on the O’Hare expansion folly:
O’Hare noise complaints hit new monthly high
Complaints about O’Hare jet noise climbed to a new monthly high of more than 6,300 in January, even while the number of households filing gripes with the city dipped, data released Friday show.
A remarkably large number of the total complaints — about two-thirds — came from a relatively small but extremely vocal pool of residents.
City aviation officials interpreted the findings as well as new noise monitor readings to indicate that while some communities are indeed receiving the brunt of new jet noise from a new runway configuration, noise levels have diminished in other surrounding areas.
City officials said they traced almost 4,000 complaints to only eight addresses in January.
Just five households in Chicago accounted for 1,948 of the 3,405 noise complaints filed by city residents, according to the data released by the Chicago Department of Aviation. It averaged 390 complaints for each of the five households.
One resident in Itasca kept extremely busy making almost all of the noise complaints in the northwest suburb, 1,363 out of 1,369, the records show.
And 419 of the 696 complaints filed in Norridge in January also came from one address, the noise report noted.
One Wood Dale resident was the source of 261 of the 562 complaints filed in the western suburb.
City officials declined to identify the households, citing both privacy issues and their stated policy not to try to tamp down negative feedback surrounding the runway expansion project at O’Hare International Airport.
Yet the officials strongly highlighted the small but prolific army of complainants, in the face of growing calls for more O’Hare noise abatement by some Chicago aldermen, suburban mayors and members of Illinois’ congressional delegation who represent the Chicago region.
“Our extensive outreach campaign during the 12 months leading up to the opening of the runway (on Oct. 17) has raised awareness of the (noise) issue among those affected. Residents are taking advantage of the noise complaint hotline and online submission form,” said Gregg Cunningham, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
A record 6,321 complaints were made during the month by residents of Chicago and suburbs, according to the tally of calls to the hotline and filings online.
It was up from 4,646 complaints in December and 4,763 in November, which was the first full month after a new runway opened and flight patterns changed at O’Hare to predominantly eastbound and westbound flows.
Some 462 residents filed complaints in January, down from 642 complainants in December, the data indicate.
The January noise report said that 19 of the 32 noise monitors deployed showed lower readings than in January 2013.
Five locations — in Bensenville, Melrose Park, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge and Wood Dale — showed higher average noise levels, compared to a year ago.