Study not needed for interim ‘Fly Quiet’
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that a new environmental study for a proposed interim ‘Fly Quiet’ plan at O’Hare International Airport is not required and that the plan is likely to go into effect in November.
The FAA has released its final re-evaluation report for the interim nighttime runaway use plan on July 15. Fly Quiet is a voluntary nighttime noise abatement program at O’Hare that is in effect from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The "Interim Fly Quiet Runway Rotation Plan" was proposed by the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (ONCC), in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Aviation in 2017 to provide relief from nighttime noise for the communities around the airport, a press release said. Three runway rotation tests have been conducted to find a way to balance nighttime noise impacts since then.
"The FAA concludes (in the report) that there are no significant new circumstances that require the preparation of a new Environmental Impact Statement and that the 2005 environmental analysis for the O’Hare Modernization Program remains valid. The Interim Fly Quiet increases noise for some residents and decreases it for others, but the impacts would be temporary," the FAA said in a statement.
The interim plan is expected to be in place from November of this year to May of 2020 and from September of 2020 to January of 2021. The plan will be impacted by airfield construction projects, which will result in reverting to the existing Fly Quiet program during those periods, according to the release.
The proposed interim plan features an 8-week runway rotation schedule, with six configurations arranged to alternate each week between parallel and diagonal runways, as well as rotating east flow and west flow.
ONCC chairwoman and Village of Mount Prospect mayor Arlene Juracek said that the noise commission is working on its "Fly Quiet 21" program, which may become a permanent fixture at the airport once the O’Hare Modernization Plan is completed and full build-out is reached. Without that Fly Quiet program, noise on the Northwest Side could again increase and stretch as far as Harlem and Higgins avenues, while noise in Norridge and Harwood Heights would decrease, records show.
Juracek said that the whole point of the interim Fly Quiet program is to reduce nighttime noise for everyone so that not one community is fully impacted but that the noise is spread around the airport.
"The FAA concluded that noise impacts would be very small (with the interim plan). We’re talking about 20 people being affected here, and 50 people being affected there, 20 there, and it’s all temporary," Juracek said. The interim plan would last about 12 months.
According to the report from the FAA, the interim plan would result in greater "noise exposure acreage compared to existing Fly Quiet with increases in some areas and decreases in others."
For example, about 167 people and 57 homes across 18 acres would see a "significant" noise increase, while 3,256 people and 1,094 homes across 166 acres would see a "reportable" noise increases under the interim plan. However, about 147 people and 56 homes across 35 acres would see a "significant" noise decrease under the interim plan, the report said.
The report states that the existing Fly Quiet area exposed to greater than or equal to 65 decibel DNL (day-night average sound level) is 836 acres of single-family homes, 56 acres of multi family homes and 447 acres of parks. The existing Fly Quiet area affects 14,232 people and 5,054 housing units for 65 DNL, and 4,124 of those have been insulated by the Chicago Department of Aviation.
The interim Fly Quiet area would affect 832 acres of single-family homes, 65 acres of multi-family homes and 379 acres of parks. The proposed interim Fly Quiet area would expose 15,680 people and 5,623 housing units for 65 DNL, and 4,120 have been sound insulated by the CDA, the report said.
There would be 961 housing units newly included in the 65 DNL area contour for the interim program and 392 units excluded from the existing Fly Quiet contour, the report says.
"The Proposed Interim Fly Quiet would be temporary. Therefore, this difference in noise exposure would not be substantial," the FAA said in the report.
The proposed interim Fly Quiet would increase noise compared to the existing plan northeast of Runway 4 Right/22 Left near Des Plains and Park Ridge, east of Runway 10 Center/28 Center in the vicinity of Norridge and Harwood Heights, south of Runway 4R/22 Left between Bensenville, Northlake and Franklin Park, and West of Runway 10 Left/28 Right in the vicinity of Itasca, Wood Dale and Bensenville.
While the noise contour on the Northwest Side under the interim plan would decrease in areas like the 41st Ward, it would extend along Lawrence avenue through Norridge past North Canfield Avenue to past Ozanam Avenue.
"The Interim Fly Quiet plan is groundbreaking in the aviation community," Juracek said in a press release. "The work of the ONCC, in partnership with the CDA and FAA, is being observed by airports and communities across the country, and even throughout the world. The cooperative effort among the parties involved and the level of community input is unprecedented," Juracek said.
"When the ONCC Fly Quiet Committee first met in 2015, we had a mission to balance nighttime noise and provide predictability for O’Hare communities by recommending a runway rotation program," said Joe Annunzio in a release, who represents the Village of Niles on the ONCC, and serves as Fly Quiet Committee chairman. "While it is an interim program today, I am confident that with the continued support and guidance of the CDA and the FAA, the Fly Quiet Committee will accomplish a permanent solution to bring nighttime relief in the future."