Advisory vote set on soundproofing


Aldermen Mary O’Connor (41st) and Margaret Laurino (39th) secured City Council approval for an advisory referendum that will allow voters on Nov. 4 to decide whether to ask Congress to allow more homes to qualify for subsidized soundproofing in areas with high levels of jet noise.

Many Northwest Side residents have complained about an increase in jet noise due to changes in flight paths after a new runway opened at O’Hare International Airport.

Flight paths were changed after a new east-west runway opened at O’Hare in October. The changes led to more jet noise and an even greater number of complaints from residents near the airport.

Last year, the city received a record of 29,493 noise complaints. By April of this year the city already had received 24,938 complaints, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The Federal Aviation Administration changed the flight patterns again on April 15 in an attempt to reduce the chance of mid-air collisions.

"This referendum is an opportunity for residents to send the federal government a message about the urgent need to revisit the criteria for establishing noise contours that determine which homes qualify for noise mitigation," O’Connor said. "While we are pleased that roughly 1,088 homes have already benefited from sound insulation, with additional phases remaining, that barely scratches the surfaces when it comes to the number of my constituents that have been impacted by this increase in air traffic."

Laurino spokesman Manuel Galvan said that the referendum will be on the ballot for all Chicago residents. "It will show support for the Federal Aviation Administration to do something about the noise," Galvan said. "People feel ignored."

"You cannot tell the federal government what to do, but you can make suggestions, and this is a suggestion," Galvan said.

"Residents are understandably frustrated with these recent changes at O’Hare," O’Connor said. "They want to see something done to help improve their quality of life."

Jac Charlier of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition, a group created to represent residents who are affected by the jet noise, said the referendum will help raise the level of awareness about the issue but that it is not a solution. "If you soundproof a home, you become a prisoner in your own home," Charlier said.