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City Plans To Rotate O'Hare Runways To Reduce Airport Noise

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jul 31, 2015 4:10PM

With public sessions to clear the air on O'Hare International Airport 's noise pollution scheduled for August, Chicago officials have come up with an experiment to mitigate airplane noise in the western part of the city.

Today, nighttime takeoffs and landings at O'Hare take place on a runway aligned east to west, which causes plenty of noise over homes on the West Side of the city, according to residents. Under plans unveiled today by Commissioner Ginger Evans, the airport would start to use different runways, including those facing diagonally, on alternating weeks, so that the noise pollution caused by the airplanes would be spread out among different communities, the Chicago Tribune reports.

When asked why she made the changes, Commissioner Evans told the paper that she was simply unaware of the issues that communities close to the airport were facing:

"I had no idea we had residences that are 3,800 feet from the runway. We walked and drove around that neighborhood listening to the aircraft. That is an area of very high impact."

Additionally, airport officials told the Tribune that they would begin asking air-traffic controllers to direct pilots to make turns after reaching a certain altitude so that "noise isn't restricted to communities east and west of O'Hare." The Chicago Department of Aviation is seeking a change in FAA regulations that would allow government funding to be used to modernize the soundproofing on about 200 homes closest to the airport.

These changes are coming on the heels of legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday that would increase the number of runways allowed at O'Hare from 8 to 10. The bill also calls for enhanced noise-monitoring at O'Hare and could increase the number households given federal funding for soundproofing.

But Evans declared certain demands by anti-noise advocates off the table, including keeping open all of O'Hare's runways, imposing "fly quiet" rules, regularly shifting runway-use patterns during the day and delaying the construction of additional runways as part of the "O''Hare Modernization Program." That probably won't make certain West Side residents happy, but at least they have a chance in August to yell at FAA officials in person.