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Chicago voters back non-binding referendum on jet noise efforts

Chicago voters sent a message to Congress Tuesday — help us tackle jet noise.

More than 70 percent of voters across 50 city wards approved a referendum that called on Congress to pass a law requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to “revisit the criteria it uses to create `noise contours’ that determine which residences near airports across the country are eligible for noise mitigation.’’

“Last night, the people of Chicago sent the federal government a clear message – take immediate action on addressing the issue of aircraft noise,’’ said Ald. Mary O’Connor (41st), who sponsored the resolution which could benefit residents affected by both O’Hare and Midway Airport jet noise.

“I hope that the members of the Illinois delegation were also paying attention because we need their help in this effort. We need them to hold the FAA accountable,’’ O’Connor said.

Her Northwest Side Ward is among many with residents now complaining about a blitz of planes overhead.

The complaints soared to record levels after O’Hare launched a dramatic change in flight paths last October as part of an $8 billion O’Hare Modernization Program that is intended to decrease delays and increase the number of planes flying in and out of O’Hare. The move has sent 70 percent of all traffic over city and suburban areas east and west of O’Hare.

The referendum, as written, would help residents affected by both O’Hare and Midway jet noise because it endorses crafting a new federal formula that could make more homes eligible for soundproofing.

O’Hare’s runway overhaul has “greatly disrupted the quality of life in communities like mine and many of those solutions that could actually help are going to require an extraordinary level of cooperation from the federal government,’’ O’Connor told the Sun-Times by email.

Outgoing Chicago Commissioner of Aviation Rosemarie Andolino didn’t seem to appease many aldermen concerned about jet noise last week.

“People are experiencing noise. I understand that. However, there are limited things we can do to change that. I just can’t magically make something happen,’’ Andolino said during City-Council budget hearings.

Andolino said she is putting pressure on airlines to phase out older, noiser aircraft.

Contributing: Fran Spielman