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Courtesy of the Chicago Department of Aviation

Airport noise abatement program a welcome — but slow — solution, residents say.

by Abe Tekippe
Jan 13, 2011

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Residential Sound Insulation Program

The program at a glance

  • Offers modifications for doors, windows, walls, ceilings, vents, and heating and cooling systems to insulate residences against aircraft noise
  • Uses revenue generated by the City of Chicago through an airline ticket tax to fund 100 percent of the modifications
  • Covers homes with permits issued before June 26, 1997, giving priority to owner- or family-occupied residences located in the program’s designated residential areas

Source: The Chicago Department of Aviation

The rumble is 80 to 95 decibels — the equivalent of a lawnmower from 50 feet away.

It’s a sound Chicagoans living around Midway International Airport say they’ve more or less grown accustomed to, with more than 225,000 flights in and out of the airport in 2010 alone, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The noise is so loud that, 15 years ago, Mayor Richard M. Daley created the Midway Noise Compatibility Commission, which oversees a program that helps qualifying homeowners insulate their homes against aircraft noise free of charge using airline ticket tax revenue.

The problem: Some residents say the modifications — which typically include new doors and windows — aren’t happening fast enough.

“In the early spring of 2009, I was informed that my house was one of the homes that was selected,” said Richard Techman, president of the Garfield Ridge Civic League. “I’m still waiting.”

Techman said that shortly after filling out an application for the Residential Sound Insulation Program in May 2009, someone came to his home to take pre-measurements and told him a second consultant would come later to take more detailed measurements. Aside from a packet he received almost one year later informing him the program was waiting on contractors, he said nothing has happened.

For Techman, the noise not only interferes with phone calls and TV, but also makes it difficult to communicate with his wife, Michele, who has a hearing disability.

Grace Alaksiewicz, 66, of West Elsdon, also said the project has come to a standstill since her September 2009 pre-measurement.

“We have not heard anything,” she said. “Things just stopped.”

Karen Pride, director of media relations for the Chicago Department of Aviation, said in an e-mail that no homes around Midway received sound insulation under the program in 2010. She said the department is working to finalize contracts, which are expected to be awarded in the first quarter of this year.

Pride added that the department maintains contact with homeowners via letters.

An estimated 1,000 homes will be insulated under the 2009 program and an additional 1,500 homes have been approved for the 2010 and 2011 programs, Pride said. Construction on the homes approved for 2009 is expected to begin in the second quarter of this year, she said.

Despite the delay, Alaksiewicz said she and her husband are not discouraged.

“We’ve been tolerating the noise for a long time,” she said. “At least it’s coming at some point. I just have to sit and wait.”