CHICAGO, IL – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed modernization of Chicago O’Hare International Airport and has identified the city of Chicago’s plan as the agency’s preferred alternative.
In its EIS, the FAA used a detailed screening process to analyze the plan proposed by the city of Chicago along with numerous alternative plans. The alternate plans included other modes of transportation, other regional airports, and various runway layouts. The FAA’s Final EIS focused on the city’s plan, two alternative runway layouts, and a “no-build” option. The modernization plan calls for building new runways and taxiways and modifying others to increase capacity and reduce congestion at O’Hare, the world’s second-busiest airport.
By law, the FAA must identify a “preferred alternative” in its Final EIS. After considerable review and analysis, the FAA determined the city’s proposed plan (Alternative C in the Final EIS) is the preferred approach. It offers the lowest level of average delays, the greatest savings in delay costs, and has just minimal additional impacts on air quality, water quality, water run-off and noise levels when compared to the other construction alternatives. (See Attachment A for more details.) The FAA will continue to consider the other alternatives and the no-build option as possible choices in its Record of Decision on the project.
In addition, the FAA’s Final EIS outlines proposed mitigation actions and suggestions in various environmental areas. Some of the key areas include:
- Noise Mitigation – The Final EIS discusses the need for soundproofing for all residences and schools that would be newly exposed to noise levels of 65 decibels and higher. To keep noise levels at a minimum in residential areas near the airport, the Final EIS also suggests the continuation of the Fly Quiet program at O’Hare and ongoing efforts by the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission to oversee mitigation efforts around O’Hare.
- Air Quality Mitigation – Since the proposed O’Hare plan does not violate U.S. EPA national air quality standards, formal mitigation actions are not required. However, the city does intend to implement several valuable emission reduction initiatives. They include using cleaner and more fuel efficient engines on construction equipment, using ultra-low sulfur fuel for off-road diesel equipment, implementing diesel-idling restrictions for delivery vehicles, encouraging the use of alternate fuel for the airport’s bus and shuttle vehicles, and continuing the use of best management practices for all decisions affecting air quality.
- Land Acquisition – For homes and businesses that may be acquired, the city will fully adhere to the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act to ensure that residents receive just compensation and support. The city also would provide Spanish translators throughout the land acquisition process when it is necessary.
- Cemeteries – As a result of detailed analysis, the Final EIS states that if the FAA’s Record of Decision approves the city’s proposal, the graves in St. Johannes cemetery must be relocated because there are no less restrictive alternatives available. (See Attachment B for details on the FAA’s analysis of minimizing impacts to the cemeteries.) The FAA is developing an agreement with the city of Chicago that will require the city to produce a professional-level survey map of all identified graves and historic features, and photographic records of all headstones.
The FAA would also develop a second agreement that would outline the requirements and procedures for the removal and relocation of the graves in St. Johannes Cemetery. Details about this potential action will be discussed in the FAA’s Record of Decision. The city would bear all costs associated with relocation.
At Rest Haven Cemetery, adjustments could be made on the airfield for construction of new cargo facilities that leave the cemetery undisturbed. In addition, it might be possible for the public to still visit the cemetery, although access could be limited. Further details about these possible actions will be available in the FAA’s Record of Decision.
Final EIS Comments – The public can view the FAA’s Final EIS during regular business hours at 33 locations in Chicago and the suburbs. (The specific locations can be found on Attachment C.)
The FAA also encourages individuals and organizations to submit comments on specific sections of the final environmental study during a 30-day comment period. Comments must be received no later than 5 p.m. central time on Sept. 6. The sections open for comments include: Alternatives, Air Quality, Environmental Justice, Mitigation, and Religious Freedom Restoration Act materials. The FAA will use the public comments it receives as it develops its Record of Decision.
During the public comment period, the FAA will accept comments by fax at (847) 294-7046 and by e-mail at OMPEIS@faa.gov. Written comments may also be mailed to:
Michael W. MacMullen, Airports Environmental Program Manager
Federal Aviation Administration
Chicago Airports District Office
2300 Devon Ave.
Des Plaines, IL 60018