By Jon Hilkevitch
Chicago’s automated hotline for jet noise complaints is undependable and should be replaced by real people who know the issue and can “compassionately respond,” three Chicago-area members of Congress said in a letter Monday to the city’s aviation commissioner.
The letter calls on the Chicago Department of Aviation to take immediate steps to improve the O’Hare International Airport noise complaint reporting process, saying there is no reliable count of complaints because calls to the hotline are often dropped or not answered in a reasonable time.
The letter was sent to Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino by U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky, whose districts have seen increases in jet noise since new flight patterns were introduced in October 2013, when the newest O’Hare runway opened.
The lawmakers’ concern about under-reporting was lodged as such complaints filed by the public to the automated hotline and online reached record highs — 32,532 in September and 170,638 during the first nine months of the year, according to the city’s tabulations. For all of 2013, the total was 29,493 complaints.
The three Democrats said residents’ voices are not being heard.
“It’s no wonder that many of our constituents feel that the very system put in place to record their concerns is simply ignoring them instead,” the letter reads. “We believe it’s imperative that the city fund and operate a telephone hotline that accurately and compassionately responds to noise complaints.”
A hotline should be staffed by personnel “versed on the noise issue,” the letter said.
“Once we can eliminate the dropped or ignored calls, we can begin to get a truly accurate count of constituent complaints.”
Andolino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The number of the O’Hare noise hotline is 800-435-9569.
Noise complaints can also be filed by clicking on a link at oharenoise.org/contact.htm.