FAA pressured to reconsider O'Hare noise problem

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Federal Aviation Administration is under intense pressure to reconsider new runway configurations at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after it rejected requests to study the noise problem around the airport.

With new runways at O'Hare and noise complaints skyrocketing, three congressmen asked the FAA for new public hearings on an old issue with new aggravation. Answer: No.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta, in a letter to the congressman, says the FAA held public hearings, undertook one of the most comprehensive analyses ever on O'Hare modernization, that it withstood a rigorous legal challenge, and that it presented an accurate picture of what the flight load would be like.

"O'Hare modernization is rolling out much different than people thought, and no one at any hearing told neighbors they were going to get several hundred more flights over their heads," said Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Chicago).

"We've held more meetings about a single stop sign than O'Hare held about an eight-billion dollar project and new runways going in," said Jac Charlier, Fair Allocation in Runways.

The FAA clearly disagrees with that, but the old O'Hare, with its intersecting runways, did give controllers over a dozen different runway options for take-offs and landings, with cooperative weather.

Last year's addition of the latest parallel runway means the flow comes from the east, or from the west on three runways, which means regular noise for many who didn't use to have it. Like this Elk Grove fastener maker where the decibel level is so irritating, they're intent on moving.

"We're definitely moving," said Jill Lewis, Assoc. Fastener Products. "We can't stay here with how things are going and it just gets worse."

The runways, however, are not going anywhere. It becomes a question of how they're used. Citizen groups say they're not yielding on noise, nor are the Congressmen who are talking about broadening the noise fight with funding as a lever.

"If the FAA doesn't listen to three Congressmen, maybe they'll listen to thirty or more," Quigley said.

Friday afternoon, 26 members of Congress signed a letter sent to the FAA administrator urging that the agency re-think the way the way it calculates airport noise standards, which in turn is a factor in flight patterns, and frequency.

The noise is not going away, but neither is the discussion, so says Quigley and Senator Dick Durbin, who figure that there have to be ways to mitigate the roar.

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