'All we want is transparency': O'Hare noise map updated, but some want soundproofing specifics

  • Planes approach O'Hare International Airport from the west Friday in Bensenville.

      Planes approach O'Hare International Airport from the west Friday in Bensenville. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Planes approach O'Hare International Airport from the west Friday in Bensenville.

      Planes approach O'Hare International Airport from the west Friday in Bensenville. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 3/5/2023 8:47 AM
This story has been updated to correct ONCC Chairman's Joe Annunzio's name and reflect that South Barrington approved adopting the noise contour map.

Amid debate and a failed motion to postpone voting, an O'Hare commission approved a new noise contour map Friday that reflects a terminal rebuilding program and starts a quest for more soundproofing dollars.

The O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission's vote was 37-14, with some local leaders -- including those in Bensenville and Wood Dale -- questioning the process and, in a separate issue, raising concerns about overloading the southern runways.


The map outlines the area surrounding O'Hare International Airport where aviation noise will be 65 decibels or higher, which triggers eligibility for soundproofing assistance.

It was updated after the Federal Aviation Administration in 2022 completed an environmental review of Chicago's plan to replace Terminal 2 with a Global Terminal and add concourses.

Bensenville residents who deal with a jet cacophony daily were disenfranchised when the FAA decided to make a public workshop on the plan virtual, not in-person, last summer, Village Manager Evan Summers said. In Bensenville, "25% of residents don't have access to broadband internet, so that's an accessibility question -- and accountability starts with accessibility," Summers said. "If they can't get in front of the FAA physically, they can't be heard."

Chicago Department of Aviation officials explained that once the noise commission adopted the contour map, it gives the staff a framework to identify homes and schools in Chicago and the suburbs that may qualify for soundproofing and then seek federal aid.

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But the lack of specificity produced frustration.

"All we want is transparency here," Wood Dale Mayor and O'Hare Noise Compatibility member Nunzio Pulice said.

The aviation department's map does show that the new noise contour covers 19.7 square miles compared to 17.6 square miles in the previous version.

A vote to table the motion failed as noise commission officials stressed a need for urgency with an FAA reauthorization bill before Congress this year.

"CDA needs to set things into motion," said Karyn Robles, the commission's vice chair and Schaumburg transportation director.

"Everyone has valid concerns, but I also don't want to halt the process and delay our strong advocacy for sound insulation for impacted residents and schools."


Also causing consternation for some communities were stats showing in January that 85% of day departures, 89% of night departures and 77% of night arrivals occurred on south airfield runways.

"What is the point of having a northern airfield that billions upon billions were spent on, if we're only going to use it 10% of the time?" Summers asked.

O'Hare's north airfield has one new runway (9-Center/27-Center) commissioned in 2020 and another (9-Right/27-Left) that was extended and debuted in late 2021. The work was part of a massive program creating a parallel runway system intended to improve efficiency and safety at O'Hare. It also was projected to evenly distribute airplane noise around the region.

Noise commission Chairman Joe Annunzio said the FAA has explained there's still some technical work occurring on 9R/27L. "We will continue to follow up with the FAA," he said.

Chicagoan Frank Icuss, who was representing the city's 41st Ward, said he was troubled by 6,831 noise complaints coming from 32 households in January.

"I think we need to pay attention to these households; people are suffering," he said.

Noise commission members who approved the noise contour included representatives from Addison, Des Plaines, Chicago's 38th Ward, DuPage County, Elmhurst, Glenview, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Rosemont, Schaumburg, St. Charles and South Barrington.

Those opposing included members from Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Itasca, Schiller Park, Wood Dale and Chicago's 36th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Wards.

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