O'Hare Soundproofing Plan Lost to Some Homeowners

Jun. 28--Some homeowners near O'Hare International Airport who have waited years for federal soundproofing assistance may never get it, as officials shift the boundaries of the program to account for the proposed airport expansion.

Those residents should experience a decrease in noise once the runways are reconfigured, Chicago Assistant Aviation Commissioner William Brogan said Tuesday.

"Ultimately you are the winners, in that the noise is going to shift to the north" of some Northwest Side neighborhoods, Brogan told about 15 Chicago residents at a meeting in Norridge. The residents are upset that their homes have not been insulated.

The first new runway that would provide some relief won't be finished for two years, and the entire project is slated to be completed no earlier than 2013. That means that residents who now qualify for the free soundproof windows and doors could face several more years awakening to the rumble of jets, without any hope of government relief.

Officials said they did not have an estimate on the number of people who fall into that category.

Members of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission's eight-person Residential Sound Insulation Committee unanimously approved a resolution recommending the new program Tuesday. The program must still be approved by the 39-member full commission, which oversees insulation of schools and homes near O'Hare. The commission meets again Sept. 8.

Brogan would not release the location of homes that could be insulated in the initial phase of the new program because, he said, the full commission has not approved it.

Brogan also told a Tribune reporter that he would not release the list because he was concerned about how the Tribune would use it. He cited the Tribune's decision to publish on its Web site a list of 5,700 politically connected job applicants that was made public as part of the ongoing City Hall corruption trial. The name William Brogan appears on the list as a job applicant, sponsored by the 42nd Ward, who received a position in 1993 as an airport operations supervisor.

Since 1996, the city has voluntarily soundproofed 5,946 homes for about $30,000 each and 114 schools.

The new program, which the FAA mandated when it approved the $15.5 billion airport expansion plan last year, requires that homes be insulated based on what O'Hare noise is expected to be when the expansion is finished. The city is still wrapping up the voluntary program. Homes in the new program could start to be insulated as early as next year.

Nearly 6,000 housing units could experience an increase in airport noise once the expansion is complete, officials said.

Because most of the residents at the meeting are from the Northwest Side, Brogan said relief for them could come as early as 2008, when a new north runway is scheduled to be finished.

But some residents, including Christine Schmidt of Norwood Park, remained upset because neighbors' homes have been soundproofed while theirs have not.