CHICAGO (CBS) — Activists upset with the increased jet noise from the new runway configuration at O’Hare International Airport have said they believe the city and the FAA conspired to hide the impact of new flight patterns on homes and businesses along airport flight paths.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports there has been a steadily growing chorus of complaints about jet noise since the opening of a new east-west runway in October 2013, sending hundreds of flights a day over a narrow corridor.
Figures the FAA provided in 2005 regarding the percentage of flights O’Hare runways would carry after the $8 billion airport expansion project was completed were incorrect, and significantly underestimated the impact of runway traffic.
Those figures were quietly changed months after the FAA held three public hearings were held to gather public comment on the expansion plan.
Jac Charlier, who heads the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition (FAiR), said he believes the FAA and the city of Chicago – which runs O’Hare – conspired to keep the noise impact of the expansion project quiet.
“Absolutely. The FAiR Coalition absolutely states that this was strategic, and the plan was to minimize the number of people who would know about this,” he said.
To hear Charlier tell it, people now dealing with the daily onslaught of plane traffic had the wool pulled over their eyes by the city and the FAA during the early stages of the O’Hare Modernization Program.
“Thousands upon thousands of families are going to be impacted, and you do three meetings, and then the FAA has the audacity to say ‘We went above and beyond the call of duty, because all we were supposed to have was one meeting.’ Are you serious? I mean, is that a joke or something like that?” he said.
The FAiR Coalition has sought to spread the pain of jet noise at O’Hare, by more evenly distributing the number of flights using each runway, so flights are not concentrated over a small number of suburbs and Chicago neighborhoods.
Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn recently joined FAiR, and said he’s received many complaints from his residents about jet noise in the past year. He related a story from one woman whose complaint is not unique.
“The other night at 3 a.m., they started flying; the planes started flying in over her house every one to two minutes, for the rest of the day,” he said. “And it was even they were so low, they were rattling her house. She goes ‘How am I supposed to sleep with that type of noise and shaking of my house?’”
Itasca residents were being asked to weigh in on the November ballot, asking whether the FAA should reopen public hearings about O’Hare traffic.
“I think they need to relook at what the impact that they’re having on the neighborhoods,” he said.
Pruyn said, so far, it’s been like moving a mountain getting the FAA to reopen the matter a decade into the O’Hare expansion plan.
Charlier and Pruyn are the guests on this weekend’s edition of At Issue, airing Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Newsradio 780 and 105.9FM.