More Schools to Be Insulated As a Result of Lawsuit
over Aircraft Noise in Chicago

NOVEMBER 6, 1999

Six schools in three suburbs near O'Hare International Airport and one in Chicago will receive $25 million worth of sound insulation next year, the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission announced Friday.

During the meeting, as a final memento of the noise wars that have raged between Chicago suburbs and O'Hare, outgoing Chicago Aviation Commissioner Mary Rose Loney received a plaque honoring her service to the panel -- and two subpoenas from lawyers representing foes of O'Hare expansion.

After an hour-long executive session in Arlington Heights, commission members approved a settlement with Bensenville that will allow village officials to select 42 of 84 homes to be sound-insulated in the village, which borders the southeast corner of O'Hare.

The City of Chicago and the commission had said they were soundproofing under a "worst-first" policy that treats homes that experience the highest day-night, or daily average, levels of noise above an average of 70 decibels. In Bensenville those homes are on the west side of town. But the village's lawyers said the worst-first policy discriminated against Hispanic residents on the east side, closest to O'Hare. They added that the city had in the past allowed homes to be sound-insulated in the interest of geographic continuity rather than on a worst-first basis. Several homes already have been sound-insulated on Bensenville's east side.

Under the current noise contour map, based on measurements in 1997, about 13,000 homes in suburbs adjoining O'Hare experience day-night noise levels of 70 decibels or greater. A computer-generated unofficial contour map for next year lowers that number to about 4,500, said Deputy Aviation Commissioner Christopher Arman. The projected decrease is a result of federally required conversions to quieter engine designs, Arman said.

Construction is expected to begin in the spring or summer or when architects' plans are completed, Arman said. Eight other schools already are in the design and construction phase under the 1999 program. The seven additional schools will bring to 87 the number of schools that have been sound-insulated at a cost of $201 million.

School soundproofing costs figured into one of the subpoenas handed to Loney by Joseph Karaganis, the lawyer who represents member communities of the rival Suburban O'Hare Commission. Karaganis said he wants to depose Loney as a principal witness in two legal actions he is pursuing. One alleges O'Hare has illegally expanded its facilities without legislative approval. The other alleges that city-proffered insulation offers for two parochial schools are one-fourth that of the city's own estimates to do the job.

Source: Chicago Tribune