5 hearings set on O’Hare jet noise

SHARE 5 hearings set on O’Hare jet noise

Chicago area residents concerned about new O’Hare Airport flight paths can attend at least five meetings about jet traffic this summer.

The Federal Aviation Administration has scheduled four daylong August “workshops” that will feature the agency’s analysis of how the October opening of a new southernmost O’Hare runway will affect noise and air pollution. Court reporters will be available to take residents’ comments.

In addition, State Sen. John Mulroe and State Rep. Robert Martwick will be holding a “town hall meeting” to gather citizen input on O’Hare changes from6:30 to 8 p.m.Thursday, July 16, at the Copernicus Center Theater, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago. The two Chicago Democrats want to hear how the airport’s $8.7 billion overhaul is “affecting your lives and our community,” according to a brochure about the event.

The Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition has scheduled a July 20 “community conversation” with the Chicago Department of Aviation about O’Hare flight paths that debuted in October 2013. The group advocates keeping open two diagonal runways set for decommissioning so jet traffic can be spread out more evenly.

The FAIR meeting will be open to the public and the media, unlike a recent meeting hosted by the city, FAIR leader Jac Charlier said Thursday. It is expected to run from 6 to 8 p.m., but a location has not been determined, he said.

However, Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Owen Kilmer saidFridaythat theJuly 20meeting with FAIR will be closed to the public and the media.

Kilmer said the meeting is not intended to be a public forum but rather a private work session where “all the parties can get together, roll up their sleeves and have a frank and meaningful discussion about solutions.” He said this was the Aviation Department’s understanding when lawmakers forged the agreement for the parties to meet.

Charlier continued to insistFridaythat FAIR is inviting the public and the media to the “community conversation and this is how it should be.” Said Charlier by email: “What’s so secret about O’Hare?”

One more meeting between the two groups is planned byAug. 1under a legislative resolution that got the city to commit to meeting FAIR after Mayor Rahm Emanuel rebuffed at least 12 FAIR invitations to discuss jet noise concerns.

The announcement of the FAA meeting sites comes after Emanuel said he persuaded the head of the FAA to hold four meetings rather than two.

And it follows complaints that none of the FAA’s three 2005 hearings on the original $8.7 billion runway overhaul plan was held in Chicago or in areas inside a “noise contour” predicted to absorb the worst noise from a dramatic shift in flight paths that began in October 2013.

None of the FAA 2015 workshops will occur inside the “noise contour,” either, but one will be in Chicago, at Taft High School on Aug 11. The site is in the 41st Ward, which registered nearly 38,000 jet noise complaints from 565 locations in April.

Bensenville, with the top number of April complaints — more than 29,000, but from only 71 people — will host a hearing Aug. 12.

Elk Grove Village, originator of more than 21,000 April jet noise complaints from 118 people, will host a meeting Aug. 13. Niles, which produced only six complaints in April from three people, will host a meeting Aug. 10.

The four sites were chosen because they are “under” O’Hare’s new east-west flight pattern, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said. Plus, he said, they are in facilities with free parking that can accommodate at least 500 people.

The hearings will feature information about the FAA’s “re-evaluation” of its original 2005 environmental impact study of O’Hare’s plan to switch from using mostly diagonal runways to using mostly and more parallel runways aimed at areas east and west of O’Hare. The analysis was needed because the southernmost runway is due to open in October — out of the order originally predicted, Molinaro said.

Another parallel runway and the extension of a third are due by 2021.

Visitors are invited to write or dictate comments about any O’Hare issue at the meetings, Molinaro said.

“We will welcome all comments from the public, whether they are specific to the re-evaluation analysis or focused on general noise or air quality issues,” Molinaro said.

Earlier Thursday, Charlier blasted the format of the FAA meetings for not including an open and public exchange of questions and answers. Instead, visitors will be able to read poster boards of information and individually ask nearby experts questions.

Molinaro said the format allows more people to get questions answered over a 36-hour period.

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