Scoping Summary - Section 2

II. Agency Scoping Meeting Results

The Agency Scoping meeting is the first official step in the process of seeking agency input; its purpose is to receive agency comments on transportation problems, needed transportation improvements, project alternatives and the scope of the environmental document.

The study team opened the meeting with introductions and a project presentation. Appendix L contains materials provided to agencies in scoping packets. The presentation identified the project sponsors and explained how the Implementation Task Force – representing the sponsors – and its subcommittees (including transit operations and finance and governance) guide the study. The presentation outlined the study process and study area, provided an overview of the draft Statement of Purpose and Need for Transit Improvements and outlined preliminary alternatives.

A “Full System Vision” was adopted at the conclusion of the Phase I Transport 2020 Alternatives Analysis conducted in 2002 (see the meeting presentation reproduced in Appendix I). This full system includes commuter rail between Middleton and East Towne, as well as system extensions to the outlying villages. Implementing this vision continues to be the overall goal for this phase of the study. New Starts funding will be requested from FTA and the application process includes systems planning, and alternatives analysis, preliminary engineering, final design and after full funding, construction.

A Purpose and Need statement will be included in the Environmental Impact Statement, in the draft version of that statement presented at the Agency Scoping Meeting, the purpose identified is to maintain a uniform vision for a growing region. Transit is a catalyst to maintain a high quality of life, preserve neighborhoods, maintain a livable central city, maintain economic viability, preserve environmental assets and make transportation options available to all populations. Madison and Dane County need to improve transit because the region’s fast growth is forecasted to continue for the next several decades; furthermore, the isthmus is the hub of regional activity and is geographically constrained, parking is limited downtown, and traffic congestion continues to grow. Roadway capacity expansion has been ruled out as an option for limiting the negative affects of increasing congestion in the central part of the study area.

In addition to a No-Build Alternative, five Preliminary “Build” Alternatives have been identified, including:

  • Alternative 1: Bus Rapid Transit
  • Alternative 2a: Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) from Phase I. Options at the eastern terminus would be further developed.
  • Alternative 2b: LPA with Street running Near the Capitol Square. Options in this area would also be developed further. They would test the impact on ridership of getting stations closer to the square and move away from having a station under Monona Terrace where the rail currently runs.
  • Alternative 3: LPA/Airport. This is a variation on Alternative 2a that connects to the Dane County Regional Airport instead of the East Towne area.
  • Alternative 4: Street-running. This alternative uses street running rail along the corridor. There are critical trade-offs to test such as costs versus what might be higher ridership and impact on development.

Appendix L includes maps that illustrate the Build Alternatives.

The project presentation covered technology options, which will be further defined once alternatives are selected for detailed study. Technologies include standard buses, over-the-road coach and guided street tram for Alternative 1, FRA-compliant DMUs and non-compliant DMUs for Alternatives 2a and 3, and straight electric or hybrid vehicles for Alternatives 2b, 4 and 5. All street running options would be electric.

The Preliminary Alternatives will be evaluated and screened. Analysis criteria include ridership/mobility, economic development, regional land use, transit integration potential, financial feasibility, social, economic and environmental impacts, capital costs, operation and maintenance costs. Another study, called the Madison Streetcar Study, is being conducted concurrent with Transport 2020; however this study is in an earlier phase. There is continuing coordination between the two studies.

The study team requested that agencies submit project interest letters for “participating agency” status pursuant to SAFETEA-LU. The following agencies requested Participating Agency status:

  • Dane County Department of Planning and Development,
  • Wisconsin Department of Transportation-Southwest Region,
  • Madison Metro Transit System,
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study team is developing an agency coordination plan is for FTA review, and it will be shared with participating agencies.

During the discussion portion of the Agency Scoping Meeting, the following points were addressed (Responses from the Implementation Task Force are in intalics):

  • The WisDOT Southwest Region – Madison office asked that the study consider impacts to freight rail, especially if they will share right-of-way. It is expected that freight and passenger rail service would share right-of-way, but not trackage and that no serious impacts to freight service are foreseen. The study team will continue to work closely with the freight providers on this issue.
  • WisDOT further asked that consideration be made to ensure that the Transport 2020 technology and stations compliments and does not foreclose options for future high-speed rail service in the existing freight rail corridor. As conceptual engineering proceeds for the Transport 2020 study, the study team will continue coordination with WisDOT and the freight rail providers (Wisconsin and Southern Railroad and Union Pacific) to avoid foreclosing options for future implementation of high speed rail.
  • Madison Metro asked when there will be formal buy-in by elected officials and who that would be. The project team noted that the ITF will make a recommendation on a Locally Preferred Alternative in Fall 2006. Local units of government, including Dane County, and the City of Madison would then support the selection of the LPA through formal resolution.
  • Madison City Planning Department representatives discussed the importance of considering economic development and land use. The analysis of direct and indirect economic impacts as enhanced mobility increases business attractiveness. The project team noted that economic impact is one of the New Starts application criteria.
  • Staff from UW-Madison stated that the study should concentrate on jobs. Any service should compliment, not compete with, streetcars. In the alternatives analysis, attracting and maintaining employers should be an important consideration. It is an issue on campus. Downtown has amenities that would benefit the entire region if they were easier to get to. Furthermore, UW staff noted that the university is a significant employer in the study corridor and that more and more staff members are living outside the transit districts. There is a need to find a way to get employees on the system. Staff offered that UW-Madison has geo-coded the staff residences and that data could be made available to the study team. The project team should consider passenger energy efficiency derived from transit versus using single occupancy vehicles. The Transport 2020 study will address these issues.

To conclude the Scoping Meeting, agency representatives were invited to board a Metro bus for a tour of the study corridor. Many individual and small group discussions occurred during the guided tour of the study corridor.

Copies of the documents provided to agency representatives are included in the appendices to this document.