O’Hare legislation takes flight

Yesterday, I joined with colleagues who represent communities surrounding O’Hare airport in sending a letter to the Attorney General asking her “to intervene on behalf of those Illinois residents directly affected by the unbearable noise coming from the airport due to horizontal runways.”

This bipartisan effort comes on the heels of news accounts that the City of Chicago was planning to prematurely decommission diagonal runways at O’Hare. All the lawmakers who are referenced on the letter are cosponsors of legislation designed to ensure at least two diagonal runways remain intact until further studies about reducing noise are completed.

Also yesterday, one of two companion bills designed to help relieve noise from O’Hare airport passed out of the House. Senate Bill 636 will enhance noise monitoring at O’Hare airport and potentially increases the number of households eligible to receive federal assistance for soundproofing. This could provide relief for thousands of families living in the new areas now impacted by changes in the configuration at O’Hare.  Many of those families have lived in the area for years without significant noise issues until recent runway reconfigurations. Now new flight paths direct aircraft to descend and take off right over their rooftops.

Currently, O’Hare is permitted to operate 8 runways and to increase that number they would have to obtain approval from the Illinois Department of Aeronautics. A provision in SB636 authorizes O’Hare to operate up to 10 runways without needing to obtain a certificate of approval. The intent of that provision was to allow O’Hare to use at least two of the current diagonal runways when it is safe and appropriate. If this bill did not pass, Chicago would be required to decommission all of the diagonals.

A companion bill, SB637, required O’Hare to keep the diagonals runway. While SB636 passed, SB637 remains in a House committee. I voted for SB636 because of the need for noise monitoring but I have reservations about it moving forward without the companion bill also moving forward. While the noise monitoring provision is important to my constituents, I want to make sure O’Hare recognizes that the permission to operate 10 runways in SB636 only applies if they utilize at least two of the diagonals. SB636, in its current form, allows Chicago to continue to use the diagonal runways, but does not require it. SB637 would require the use of diagonals, when safe and appropriate.

I have formally requested the senate sponsor stipulate that point when SB636 returns to the Senate for concurrence and have asked the House Sponsor of SB637 to allow the bill to move through the legislative process.

I remain committed to fighting for O’Hare noise relief.


Christine Winger
State Representative

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