Hundreds attend 1st hearing on opening of another O’Hare runway

SHARE Hundreds attend 1st hearing on opening of another O’Hare runway
SHARE Hundreds attend 1st hearing on opening of another O’Hare runway

Hundreds of Chicago area residents streamed into the first of four hearings on the opening of another O’Hare International Airport runway, many of them angry over new jet noise and frustrated at the difficulty of trying to decipher the information they were given Monday.

Some visitors said the hearing offered no basis for comparison because it did not readily present information on current runways and the new jet noise that has greeted them since the dramatic change in O’Hare flight paths in October 2013.

Also missing from informational boards around the perimeter of a “workshop” room was a map of the airfield once the $8.7 billion airfield overhaul is completed.

Others complained that no figures were provided on the number of jets they could expect over their homes once the new, southernmost runway launches on Oct. 15.

Marcia Zurawski, of Park Ridge, exploded in frustration as she stood in front of one map with thousands of lines projecting the traffic patterns of flights in and out of O’Hare. It did not list any streets, so she could not determine how her house fit into the mix.

“With all your computers, you can’t say where the streets are? Come on,” Zurawski told one hearing official.

Christine Van Winkle, of Chicago, tells the court reporter about the noise from planes flying over her home . | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Christine Van Winkle, of Chicago, tells the court reporter about the noise from planes flying over her home . | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

More than 500 people were expected to file in and out of White Eagle Banquets, 6839 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Niles, before Monday’s meeting ended.

Additional meetings are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago; Wednesday at Monty’s Elegant Banquets, 703 S. York Road in Bensenville; and Thursday at Belvedere Events and Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave. in Elk Grove Village.

The hearings are meant to explain the results of a Federal Aviation Administration “re-evaluation” of a 2005 environmental impact study of the O’Hare Modernization Program. The re-evaulation was needed because two east-west parallel runways and the extension of a third are not opening in the same year, as originally envisioned.

Instead, a fifth parallel runway is set to open in October; a sixth will debut in 2020 if funding is found; and an extension of an existing parallel runway is due in 2021 — again, if funding is found.

FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said visitors are free to ask experts to help them try to pinpoint what runway might be affecting them. Experts also can take visitors to a mountain of thick books to show them the completed airfield, Molinaro said.

But the main point of this week’s meetings, he said, was to display the impact of the next runway and then the runway after that.

John Van Winkle, of Chicago, asks FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro how he can find his property on the maps. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

John Van Winkle, of Chicago, asks FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro how he can find his property on the maps. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

Christine and John Van Winkle were ready to leave in frustration when they finally decided to ask an expert to help them find the runways that are affecting their home in Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood. They said they were passed along to eight different people before they got some answers.

“They make it hard,’’ John Van Winkle said.

“It’s set up to make me feel like I vented and then just get it over with,’’ Christine Van Winkle said.

Those attending Monday’s hearing included representatives of the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition, who say they are not satisfied with the decision by new Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans to decommission two diagonal runways FAIR contends could be used to spread out jet noise more evenly.

Department of Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans attends the first FAA hearing on Monday on the impact of the new runway. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Department of Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans attends the first FAA hearing on Monday on the impact of the new runway. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Evans says the runways would cost $10 million each to maintain, intersect with the flight paths of other runways and lessen the efficiency of air traffic meant to flow in from the east and out to the west.

“There’s lots of angry people,’’ FAIR member Steve Brick said as he looked over Monday’s crowd. “That’s why they are all here.”

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