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NICTI Study
                               Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)



*      
What is NICTI?
*      
What is the NICTI study?
*      
Why is this study being done?
*      
What is the study area and why so large?
*      
Who is responsible for this study?
*      
What is the goal of this study?
*      
How is this study funded?
*      
Are future portions of the study funded?
*      
What is the FTA process?
*      
Is this a high priority project for the Region?
*      
How long will it take to finish this study? When can we expect the
      improvements to be implemented
?

*      
What constitutes a Stakeholder?
*       How much input and influence will the general public have on the study
      process
?

*      
What is going to be considered in this study?
*      
Where are people currently traveling to and from in the area and what
      methods do you use to find that out
?
*       How do you know what is needed - and who needs it?
*      
How will alternatives be evaluated?
*      
How many alternatives will be selected for further study?
*       What steps are being taken to coordinate with other transportation
      providers and transportation agencies
?
*       What is the schedule for this study?
*       Where are we in the study process?
*       What are the next steps in the study?
*       What will happen to the North Central Region if we do nothing?
*      
Will a new transportation facility encourage sprawl?
*       Who can I contact about this study?
*       How can I keep informed on the study’s progress?

Q.         What is NICTI?

A.         The Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative (NICTI) is a group formed from the county and municipal governments and related agencies of the North Central Region that has improvement of the transportation of people between Rockford/Belvidere Region and the Chicagoland Region as its sole objective.  NICTI is a subcommittee of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) which is the regional transportation organization responsible for coordinating the transportation plans, projects, and services for the Rockford/Belvidere Metropolitan Planning Area.

Q.         What is the NICTI study?

A.         The NICTI Study is a federally required analysis referred to by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) as an Alternatives Analysis. An Alternatives Analysis is a study that evaluates transportation by looking at all possible methods and routes for moving passengers between the two regions, including the options of doing nothing and the option of just making what currently exists work more efficiently. The goal of the Alternatives Analysis is to determine the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) method of getting people to their desired destination.  That LPA would then have the possibility of being constructed and initiated with federal money.

Q.         Why is this study being done?

A.         The North Central Region is experiencing transportation problems that threaten to further limit mobility in the corridor between Rockford and the Chicagoland Region.

Traffic problems and constraints to expansion of the roadways and the desire to improve connectivity between Boone and Winnebago Counties and other metropolitan areas require additional studies on alternative modes of transportation (i.e. rail, bus, etc.)

Land use and zoning decisions are made by each community. These decisions have regional impacts on travel patterns because of the different population and employment centers that result. Different travel demands and patterns emerge between the communities, making transportation a regional issue.

This study, an Alternative Analysis and Environmental Study, is the next step in the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) process. This prescribed process is required when seeking Federal funds to design or build a new transit service.

Q.         What is the study area and why so large?

A.         The general study area includes a portion of Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, McHenry, DeKalb, DuPage, Cook and Kane counties. The study area is defined by the possible solutions to the transportation problem that is before us. There are many different alternative ways to connect the Boone/Winnebago area with the Chicagoland area and the study area must be large enough to include all potential solutions and beneficiaries of a transportation improvement.

Q.         Who is responsible for this study?

A.         The Northern Illinois Commuter Transportation Initiative (NICTI) is a subcommittee of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP), who are leading Alternatives Analysis in conjunction with the cities of Rockford and Belvidere, counties of Winnebago and Boone, and the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD).

Jim Ryan, Rockford City Administrator, is the Project Manager; Steve Ernst from the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) is the Deputy Project Manager.

The planning and engineering firm, TranSystems is the prime consultant. Lynn Otte is TranSystems’ Project Manager.

Q.         What is the goal of this study?

A.         The goal of the study is to identify a Locally Preferred alternative (LPA) for public transportation providing an efficient, affordable, and attractive link between Boone/Winnebago and Chicagoland Regions.

Q.         How is this study funded?

A.         The study is funded by $3 million of Federal and State Grant money.

Q.         Are future portions of the study funded?

A.         The Alternatives Analysis will be followed by an environmental analysis.  The environmental study is funded. After that, the next step would be Preliminary Engineering.  Preliminary Engineering is not yet funded. The project would have to apply to FTA to enter preliminary engineering, and funds would be requested at that time.  The amount of funding required for preliminary engineering and final engineering cannot be determined until the alternative is selected and defined. Typically design for this type of project would run in the range of 10% to 12% of total project construction costs for both preliminary engineering and final engineering.

Q.         What is the FTA process?

A.         The federal government funds some new transit projects through a New Starts Process. For regions interested in accessing the federal New Starts funds, they have developed a process for comparing major transit investments throughout the country.  The New Starts Process is intended to make sure that federal funding for transit projects are compared on a level playing field. This way, a project in Boone and Winnebago Counties can be compared with a project in St. Louis or Charlotte or Sacramento or Chicago for funding by the limited federal New Starts dollars. All areas must follow a similar set of evaluation steps. At the end of the process, there are a series of criteria that the FTA will evaluate including:

Effectiveness – the extent to which alternatives solve the stated transportation problems in the corridor

Impacts – the extend to which the alternatives impact – positively or negatively – nearby natural resources and neighborhoods, air quality, the adjacent transportation network and facilities, land use and the local economy. 

Cost Effectiveness – the extent to which the costs of the alternatives are commensurate with their benefits 

Financial Feasibility – the extent the funds required to build and operate the alternatives are likely to be available 

Equity – the costs and benefits of the alternatives are distributed fairly across different population groups

Q.         Is this a high priority project for the Region?

A.         This is an important project for Boone/Winnebago Region that will assist in managing growth, stimulating economic development, and opening up new job opportunities that are now unreachable because of the lack of transportation options.  This is a project that is important now and its value will become even more evident and appreciated in future years.

Q.         How long will it take to finish this study? When can we expect the
                improvements to be implemented?

A.         The goal of the Alternatives Analysis process is the identification of a Locally Preferred Alternative. That milestone is expected to be reached in Fall 2007.  The Environmental Analysis will be done by mid-2008.

Q.         What Constitutes a Stakeholder?

A.         There are many categories of Stakeholders. Elected officials, business leaders, developers are commonly put in the category of stakeholders. This is not to diminish by any means the role of each citizen.  Each citizen is a stakeholder, as well.

Stakeholders are those municipalities and organizations with an economic, cultural, social, or environmental "stake" in the action and are comprised of representatives from municipalities, transportation agencies, elected officials, local jurisdictions and other affected parties.

Q.         How much input and influence will the general public have on the
                study process?

A.         The Study Team will be reaching out to a wide range of stakeholder groups early and often and encouraging them to participate and listening and considering their comments. The project offers and interactive website www.nicti.net enabling the public to comment and find updated information. Plans are also under way to conduct public opinion surveys and focus groups to learn more about local and regional transportation concerns from local residents and those who already commute between the regions.  Although we many not be able to satisfy everyone, our goal is to look at the needs of the whole region to assess transportation mobility for the future.

Q.         What is going to be considered in this study?

A.         The Alternative Analysis will evaluate a range of transportation options involving several different modes of travel such as rail, bus, and highway expansion in the corridor between Boone/Winnebago and the Chicagoland Regions. It will identify the option or combination of options that best meet the needs of the corridor and the project goals and objectives.

Q.         Where are people currently traveling to and from in the area and what
                methods do you use to find that out?

A.         Public input and data analysis are used to understand the travel patterns of people in the corridor that is being studied. Public input is provided at public meetings throughout the project, by submitting comments to the project website www.nicti.net.  Later in the project, we will be holding focus groups to help us refine alternatives.

Data analysis is also a very important way to understand travel patterns and is required by the Alternatives Analysis process. There are many data sources that help us understand that travel patterns. Primary among them are Census data and regional planning models that forecast travel flows.

Q.         How do you know what is needed - and who needs it?

A.         In July of 2005, the Rockford MPO completed its Year 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan.  This plan helped to identify commuter patterns in the region. The technical study team, under the guidance of the City of Rockford, uses recognized and proven planning approaches. Some of these approaches involve mapping and studying statistics representing many topics. The technical team will also use sophisticated computer modeling tools and techniques to forecast future needs, the effectiveness of alternatives in the service they would provide, and the ability to test various options of an alternative to see which one performs the best over time. 

Q.         How will alternatives be evaluated?

A.         An alternatives analysis consists of ‘screening’ evaluations – from the broad to the specific – leading to a recommendation of a Locally Preferred Alternative. The general screening process is common to all who do alternatives analyses.  The process is ‘customized’ by the local process and public input. Through the identification of goals and measures of effectiveness alternatives are screened.

The evaluation of alternatives will be carried out through two levels, or tiers. The evaluation will get more and more detailed as the study progresses and fewer alternatives remain to be studies.  The expected result of the evaluation process is the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA).  

After approval by the RMAP Policy Committee, the LPA will be forwarded to the federal government for consideration for funding. 

Q.         How many alternatives will be selected for further study?

A.         At this initial stage, any reasonable alternative will be developed for initial screening. The initial screening often eliminates many alternatives from further consideration because they either do not meet the stated goals of the project or they are deemed to be infeasible. As the screening becomes more detailed, the number of alternatives becomes much smaller.  Heading into the final screening, it is likely that only a few alternatives will still be under consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q.         What steps are being taken to coordinate with other transportation    
                providers and transportation agencies?

A.         Similar to recognizing the importance of involving the general public, the technical staff as well as the project sponsors will reach out and inform and solicit comment from transportation providers and transportation agencies.

Q.     What is the schedule for this study? 

A.     On April 30, 2008, the NICTI Executive Committee announced the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). 

The detailed evaluation of the technical factors associated with the alternative and their impacts on the community and the environment began immediately after the announcement of the LPA and will take approximately six months to complete.

The Draft Environmental Assessment will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA must approve the findings prior to giving authorization to advance the project to the next major phase which is called preliminary engineering. After this review, it is anticipated that the Draft Environmental Assessment will be released for public review and comment in fall 2009 at which time a public hearing will be held to formally record comments, which will be incorporated into the Final Environmental Assessment.

Q.     Where are we in the study process?

A.    We are currently in the third phase of the study, as identified as Part C in the timeline. Part C is the final step in the process and includes further detailed evaluation of the technical factors associated with the alternatives and their potential impacts on the community and the environment. At the end of this process, a preferred alternative will be recommended for implementation. The results of the evaluation process, along with all of the findings from previous steps in the study, are reported in an Environmental Assessment. Refer to the project schedule.

Q.     What are the next steps in the study? 

A.     The Draft Environmental Assessment will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The FTA must approve the findings prior to giving authorization to advance the project to the next major phase which is called preliminary engineering. After this review, it is anticipated that the Draft Environmental Assessment will be released for public review and comment in fall 2009 at which time a public hearing will be held to formally record comments, which will be incorporated into the Final Environmental Assessment.

Q.         What will happen to the North Central Region if we do nothing?

A.         If no more improvements to the transportation system are done than are currently planned, 70+% of the interstates in our region and 20+% of our major and minor arterials, we will experience significant gridlock by 2025.

Q.         Will a new transportation facility encourage sprawl?

A.         An important goal of a new transportation facility will be to concentrate transportation opportunities and development. Many places in the country have experienced increased concentration of development, increased property values and economic development as a result of new transit facilities.

Q.         Who can I contact about this study?

A.         Mr. Steve Ernst, Executive Director, Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 313 North Main Street, Rockford, IL 61101, or call (815) 964-RMAP (7627).

Q.         How can I keep informed on the study’s progress?

A.         NICTI has a number of contact points for information on the study. The best way to keep updated is to check the NICTI Study website at www.nicti.net. In addition to the website, you can write to Mr. Steve Ernst, Executive Director, Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 313 North Main Street, Rockford, IL 61101, or call (815) 964-RMAP (7627).

 

     Rockford to Chicagoland... Making Our Regional Connection

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