O'Hare opens new runway, control tower; neighbors concerned about noise

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A United Airlines jet was the first to land on O'Hare Airport Runaway 10Right-28Left, which opened Thursday morning to much political fanfare.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other leaders cut the ribbon at the opening of Runway 10Right-28Left on October 15, 2015.

Hundreds of guests, airline officials and politicians, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, were there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Emanuel congratulated the team behind 10Right-28Left for being "on time and on budget."

"There is nowhere in the, nowhere in the United States you can't get to multiple times daily from the city of Chicago... weather permitting," Emanuel joked. "We are working on that in City Council next week."

"We said to the commission, we will not support this project if you can't guarantee it will be completed before the 2015 World Series, just in case," Tracey Lee of American Airlines, said, as he passed out "W" signs as flown by the Chicago Cubs.

Emanuel and others said as part of the $10 billion O'Hare Airport Modernization Project, the 7,500- foot Runway 10Right-28Left, located on the south end of airport property, guarantees Chicago a spot on the global stage. The runway will handle about 125 landings from the west every day between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., officials said. That's less than 10 percent of all flights.

While many officials call the project a winner, some lawmakers, including Illinois State Senator John Mulroe (D) 10th District, boycotted the event.

"The O'Hare Modernization plan is not working for residents of the 10th Ward," Mulroe said. He said noise complaints have skyrocketed with the now five east-west parallel runways. Some homeowners are spending thousands of dollars to sound proof their houses, he said. Mulroe and others have suggested continuing to use O'Hare's diagonal runways to lessen the noise burden.

"There is no noise benefit to keeping diagonals. There's a huge operational hit to them. It's a 1950s airfield," Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said.

Evans said using diagonal runways also poses a safety risk. The FAA said residents' concerns about noise are not being ignored.

"We will continue to participate in ongoing and new environmental initiatives and look forward to additional ways to support the travel community and surrounding neighborhoods," FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitacker said.

For more than a decade, Chicago has been untangling O'Hare's six crisscrossing runways and rearranging them in a safer, more efficient side-by-side layout that's supposed to unclog one of the country's worst aviation bottlenecks.

Yet delays still ensnare many passengers traveling through the hub. O'Hare is generally last in the rankings for on-time performance.

DePaul University aviation expert Joseph Schwieterman said the progress puts to rest fears that O'Hare would be unable to handle future growth in the number of flights.

But people who live in the city's Jefferson Park neighborhood are not happy about the new runway. Planes using 10Right-28 Left fly directly over their homes.

O'Hare Runway 10Right/28Left is shown in yellow on this image from flychicago.com.


"This runway is actually going to affect the west side of the airport more - our suburban brothers and sisters. It's going to be utilized mainly in the east flow, when the planes are mainly coming from the west. It's going to be going over even more people in Bensenville, Wood Dale, Itasca and Bloomingdale, who've already seen a huge increase in noise because of the runway that opened two years ago in October," said Colleen Mulcrone, Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition.

Franklin Park Mayor Barrett Pendersen and his neighbors have dealt with noise from O'Hare for 50 years. With the latest shift, they will get some relief, which they said is a long time coming.

"Franklin Park is not as affected as it was before. Ninety percent of our noise has been eliminated. But I do have a sensitivity to those people experiencing it," Pendersen said.
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