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New O'Hare runway one year old

November 25, 2009 4:34:50 AM PST
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the first new runway built at O'Hare International Airport in more than four decades. It has lessened some delays, but not everyone is happy with the new runway.O'Hare's new northern runway was the first big step in the airport's redesign. Delays are down a bit, but re-design on such a massive scale means that airport noise is now a huge headache in neighborhoods that only a bit of it before.

When the new northern runway opened last year, amidst fanfare, delays at O'Hare were among the worst in the nation. It was ranked 29 out of the country's 31 largest airports.

On Tuesday, in large part because of the new runway, O'Hare has climbed to number 20 in the delay rankings.

"We said all along the north runway would help a little. It has helped a little. The needle is pointed in the right direction," said Tony Molinaro, FAA.

But not if you live in Park Ridge.

Runway 9 left-27-right routes aircraft over the tops of homes unaccustomed to the level and frequency of jet noise they're now experiencing almost daily.

"And at night the cargo boys kick in and go all hours, so no one's sleeping here," said Gene Spanos, Park Ridge resident.

"I thought it was supposed to be an extra runway for days like today when the cloud cover is low," said Dave Schmidt, Park Ridge mayor.

Before its debut, the widely held thought in Park Ridge was that the new northern runway would be used principally in bad weather - to give O'Hare three arrival runways and ease weather delays.

The FAA says no. Its plan all along - written into its environmental impact statement years ago- was to use the new runway for arrivals no matter what the weather. Today 9-left 27 right is handling roughly 15-percent of O'Hare's arrivals, and the FAA says that number will go up, not down.

"The jet aircraft noise is intolerable," said Gene Spanos, Park Ridge residents.

Spanos and other residents in the approach path say their property values have tanked. For months, they've been organizing to fight - perhaps ultimately in court but the O'Hare build-out is well underway, and the FAA's noise contours forecast more noise for Park Ridge, not less.

Still city leaders hope they can recruit legislative help to mitigate the noise volume, and at the very least end the late night cargo flights.

"I talked to the FAA. They say it's the pilots. The pilots say its the air traffic controllers and so it's a shell game, and Park Ridge is in the middle," said Spanos.


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