Future of new Buffalo train station could depend on price tag

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- The future of Buffalo’s new train station is still uncertain. The public saw plans Tuesday night for the locations still on the table, downtown and Central Terminal.

There are a number of proposals for each location. The two downtown options include replacing the Exchange St. station near its current location or building a new station at Washington St., south of I-190.

The engineering consultant hired by the NYS Department of Transportation, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, came up with three options for each proposal. They address what each station would look like if it had Amtrak Empire and Maple Leaf Services, or Amtrak Empire and Maple Leaf services along with Lake Shore Limited Service, or both services along with an intercity passenger bus station.

They are considering the availability of existing track, site access and ownership, the train platform, connectivity to other transportation options, and readiness for development.

City officials told News 4 about 200 people turned out to see the plans. An overwhelming number of those individuals expressed support for a station at Central Terminal.

“It is a historic landmark, it is beautiful, we have nothing like that,” said Paulette Woods, who lives in the Delaware District. “We need a majestic, beautiful vision that will put us on the map and bring people here.”

She said it will spur development on the East Side.

“We’ve done a lot to develop the downtown but this is a city and we need development in the whole region,” she said.

President of Friends for a Better Buffalo, Terrance Heard, agreed.

“We can have commerce down Broadway Ave. and William St. and you can see the development and growth that comes along,” said Heard. “I think Central Terminal will be a win-win for all.”

He said there are also drawbacks to a downtown location, like the availability of parking.

“Let’s not make this a business deal by putting it in downtown Buffalo,” said Heard. “The city needs to expand and if they want to do more business, more commerce in the city, you place it a mile away.”

Mayor Byron Brown said cost will be one of many factors in the decision. He is the chair of Governor Cuomo’s Train Station Site Selection Stakeholders.

“This is going to be a fact based recommendation to the Governor, it’s not going to be an emotional decision,” said Brown.

He told News 4 the Central Terminal proposals will cost about double the downtown proposals.

The downtown projects cost $34.4 million to $86.2 million, according to consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff. The Central Terminal proposals come with a price tag of $68.6 million to $149 million.

Mayor Brown said it’s uncertain if there will be federal dollars available for the project since President Trump’s proposed budget includes cuts to infrastructure funding.

“If the federal funds do not come, we would hope Albany would pick up the tab for the most efficient, most cost-effective replacement of the existing Exchange St. station, which currently is in downtown Buffalo,” said Brown.

The state has already pledged $25 million to the project in its upcoming budget. Mayor Brown said the city doesn’t have the resources to help fund the project.

CSX employee Robert Seemeuller, who has spent 35 years working on the railroad, said he supports a downtown train station.

“It’s where most people want to go, it’s a destination,” said Seemeuller. “Buffalo has done a beautiful job, the business community has done a great job reconstructing downtown. This just enhances those investments.”

He also pointed out that Toronto-based developer Harry Stinson already has plans to redevelop Central Terminal.

“We should help him out to redevelop Central Terminal and that portion of the East Side but in terms of transportation, the investment should be made downtown,” said Seemeuller.

Mayor Brown said WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff will now look at all of the information and present it to the stakeholders for a vote. Mayor Brown expects the vote to take place before the end of the third week in April. The decision will then be presented to Governor Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo announced in October the state would fund a $1 million, six-month study on the replacement of the Exchange St. station.

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