Since O’Hare became part of the 5th Congressional District in January 2013, my staff and I have become immersed in the issues surrounding the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) and O’Hare 21 capital investment project. We have met repeatedly with residents and neighborhood groups to hear their concerns regarding the impact of airplane noise on the communities surrounding the airport and convey those concerns to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines. But there’s more left to do.
The unprecedented noise pollution facing our local communities is a serious problem that warrants urgent action. The FAA’s failure to quickly and responsively address resident’s concerns and the agency’s lack of candor is completely unacceptable.
We need to pursue both long- and short-term solutions to the problems facing residents near the airport, which is why I’ve urged the FAA to reevaluate the 65 DNL metric used to determine whether or not residents qualify for FAA assistance for noise mitigation insulation in their homes. In 2015, I was successful in getting FAA to undertake a study of the DNL level, but that study is now more than a year overdue and FAA refuses to adequately explain the reasons for the delay or when the study might be released.
I have also worked with the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) to expand the Fly Quiet runway rotation program. Fly Quiet is an effective short-term solution but as the construction of parallel runways at O’Hare continues, it can no longer be a viable option. Instead, FAA, the airport, the airlines, and the government at both the city and federal levels must work to incorporate noise considerations into every step of the airport and airspace planning and operation processes.
Additionally, I am a founding member and Vice-Chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, which is composed of legislators from around the country who aim to raise awareness of aircraft noise and work to find meaningful solutions to the problem. Since coming to Congress, I have pressed successive FAA Commissioners on the lack of FAA’s responsiveness to these urgent concerns. Put simply, the FAA needs to do better. My constituents’ quality of life near O’Hare has suffered, and the FAA’s tepid response is troubling. There is more work to be done at all levels, and we will continue to encourage the FAA, Chicago Department of Aviation, and airlines to search for solutions that can provide relief to residents, who are losing both sleep and patience.
A robust O’Hare and a vibrant 5th District need not be mutually exclusive. We will continue to pursue every avenue that reduces noise without compromising safety.