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Sunday Letters: City listening hard to O’Hare noise complaints

As the economic engine of the city, O’Hare Airport has played an enormous role in helping Chicago grow since the airport opened more than 50 years ago. To keep Chicago growing, the city set forth a plan more than ten years ago to modernize O’Hare’s airfield – originally built in the 1950’s – so it can compete with other major airports in the 21st century. Last week, the city announced the latest plans to complete that decade-long project – a $1.3 billion deal that will create thousands of jobs, improve the passenger experience and encourage more businesses to relocate to Chicago, all while continuing our long-standing commitment to ensure the quality of life in the communities that surround the airport.

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At each step in the process of improving O’Hare, the Chicago Department of Aviation has been open and transparent in its work. Residents who live near the airport have raised serious concerns about the issue of noise, and we agree this is an issue that should be addressed. That’s why we’ve worked closely with the leadership of the surrounding neighborhoods and the Suburban O’Hare Commission to address the noise issues head-on. We’ve taken a number of steps, including: providing sound insulation to more than 10,000 homes and counting, releasing a 24-point plan detailing a path forward to address nighttime noise, and asking the FAA to re-evaluate the national standard for noise impacts to provide needed relief to neighboring communities. The deal announced last week includes measures to balance noise exposure among communities east and west of O’Hare. The city also plans to ensure that sound insulation of all eligible homes and schools will commence and be completed before the newest runway is put in use. But one proposal that doesn’t work is keeping open the diagonal runways at O’Hare, which date to the 1950s. It’s not pragmatic or realistic — and the FAA says it’s unsafe. This important point has been reiterated to community groups for many years.

As we move forward to bring O’Hare Airport into the 21st century, we are optimistic that our ongoing work with more than 60 government jurisdictions and school districts to address the noise issue will provide relief to the citizens and neighborhoods most affected. We’ve made progress on this front in the past by engaging in constructive dialogue from local leaders and industry experts, and we look forward to continuing that conversation.

Ginger S. Evans
Chicago Department of Aviation


Owen Kilmer
Deputy Commissioner for Communications
Chicago Department of Aviation