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Enlarged View

Alternatives Analysis  


This study is an Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment, and is the next step in the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) process. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts Process is where the federal government funds some new transit projects through what is called, a New Starts Process. For regions interested in accessing the federal New Starts funds, a process for comparing major transit investments throughout the county is used. 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, impacts, cost effectiveness and equity. 

In 2006 the NICTI study team focus has been on examining the study area’s transportation system. The first phase of the NICTI Alternatives Analysis (noted as Part A on the timeline) analyzed the existing and future transportation characteristics, performance, and possible improvements in an area that is experiencing the demands of growing regional development and increased traffic congestion. 

As part of the Alternatives Analysis, identification of the option or combination of options that best meet the needs of the corridor and the project goals and objectives were considered. Click here to view {Initial Build Alternatives Map} the initial alternatives that were carried forward to the Alternatives Analysis Part B process.

 The wide range of improvements considered for further analysis were: 

In addition, the federal government requires the study of two “Baseline” alternatives:


Part B began with the further refinement of the purpose and need for improvement, and identified a wide range of possible alternatives, such as commuter rail, rapid bus transit, light rail, express bus, and highway expansion.

Next, the possible alternatives went through the Screen 1 process. Each alternative was evaluated against how well they achieved the project goal and objectives, and identified the level of effectiveness of those alternatives. For ease in reading we adopted the Consumer Report bubble method in which a fully filled in circle indicates the alternative fully addressed the measure, or is the best relative to the consideration, half filled bubble indicates the alternative somewhat or partially addresses the measure and an empty bubble indicates an alternative fails to address the measure.

Measures used to determine which alternatives to carry forward as indicated First Level Screening Results Matrix on the Matrix were Communities/Population Served, Public Support, Low-Income or Minority Populations Served, Service to Activity Center, Intermodal Connection Opportunities, Impacts to Vehicular Traffic, Quality and Convenience of Trip, Impacts to Planned Transportation Improvements, Consistency with Existing Infrastructure, Order of Magnitude Capital Costs, and Consistency with Locally Adopted Future Land Use/Comprehensive Plans.

The most important measures First Level Screen Summary were Public Support, Order of Magnitude Capital Costs, Communities/Population Served, Service to Activity Centers Within Study Area and Consistency with Locally Adopted Future Land Use Plan/Comprehensive Plan.

The Initial Build Alternatives were presented at public meetings in February 2007. The alternatives which qualified in the first level screening for further study in the second level screening were:

First Screen Alternatives and Revised Study Area Map

A significant amount of work has occurred behind the scenes since the public meetings in 2007. The alternatives that moved forward after the First Level Screening, First Screen Alternatives and Revised Study Area Map were carefully evaluated based on criteria such as ridership forecasts, operating plans, cost effectiveness and financial feasibility, analysis of social and environmental impacts and supportive land uses. In this phase of the project, additional engineering analysis was also developed to become more certain of the implementation realities of the remaining alternatives. As the Alternative Analysis progresses through the screening process and the evaluation of criteria applied, options within the wide range of alternatives are eliminated until there is a solution—a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA).

On April 30, 2008 the NICTI Executive Committee announced the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) after the results of the second level screening were reviewed. The transit alternative selected is a commuter rail line that would link downtown Rockford with the communities of Belvidere, Marengo and Huntley to the City of Elgin including to employment centers east of Elgin in Schaumburg, Bensenville and the O’Hare Airport area. The new commuter rail line would travel between Rockford and Elgin on existing freight tracks; at Elgin, the service would connect with the Metra Milwaukee District Line. The NICTI Alternative Analysis DRAFT Second Level Screening Executive Summary Report can be viewed in full by clicking on this link: DRAFT Second Level Screening Executive Summary Report In order for the NICTI project to move forward, the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning (RMAP) approval was needed, and the RMAP Policy Committee voted unanimously to endorse the NICTI LPA on May 29, 2008 via Resolution 2008-8.

It is anticipated that the next round of public meetings will be held late 2009. The details will be posted on the website when they are finalized.


     Rockford to Chicagoland... Making Our Regional Connection

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