Buffalo’s Metro Rail expansion envisioned to turn DL&W site into another waterfront gem

December 27, 2015

| The Buffalo News

on December 21, 2015

Within just a few weeks, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority planners will decide exactly how to extend Metro Rail service to the venerable DL&W train shed at the foot of Main Street.Website Insert 5000 New Seats copy

But the first expansion of rail service since the Buffalo system’s completion in 1985 could represent far more than just a new transit stop. It could provide the impetus that developers have long sought to transform the historic rail station into yet another waterfront jewel.

That might include sky bridges into adjacent First Niagara Center, boat docks in the Buffalo River to accommodate yet another transportation mode, or allowing Cobblestone District garages to serve Southtowns commuters seeking rail access to the parking-scarce Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The federal and state governments will have to pitch in substantial sums to make it all work, but NFTA officials think that what now exists on their drawing boards could happen within three to five years.

“There’s a certain level of excitement on what we’ve done here,” said Thomas R. George, the NFTA’s director of public transit. “We think we’ve captured the opportunities fairly well.”

George and his team have winnowed to two the options for the public and the NFTA’s board of commissioners to consider sometime next month, with both extending service to the terminal and First Niagara Center. The options are:

• A new Alternative A station along the South Park Avenue side of the DL&W costing about $32 million.

• A similar Alternative B along the Buffalo River on the building’s opposite side at about $42 million.

• Both concepts include at least one glass-encased tower along South Park, with the possibility of another at Illinois Street, both serving as “front doors” to the station and the arena.

• Both would feature the idea that the long-abandoned second floor above the Metro Rail yard-and-shops complex could someday be redeveloped.

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