Buffalo Leaders Divided Over Future Train Station Site
From the Morning Memo:
It’s not a secret the city of Buffalo has undergone a massive overhaul over the past five years or so. Along the waterfront, the Buffalo-Niagara medical campus, and downtown, elected leaders are happy to point out the cranes in the sky.
Many of the construction projects have been a result of cooperation at the local, state and federal levels of government, but there are some indications that not everybody’s on the same page for one of the city’s next big endeavors.
In October, Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to town and pledged $1 million for a formal study investigating the best location to build a new Amtrak station. He did not suggest a particular site, but said the money would disappear unless the study was finished in six months.
At the time, Rep. Brian Higgins said he was pleased the state was helping to fast track the project. With the findings due at the end of April, it appears decision makers have whittled things down to two sites – the city’s former railroad hub the Central Terminal or Canalside near the downtown waterfront.
Higgins is in favor of the former.
“Let’s make the investment as a demonstration of confidence and commitment that Buffalo’s renaissance means nothing unless it includes the forgotten neighborhoods of Buffalo,” he said.
But, the congressman believes the data is skewed in favor of the downtown location. Outside consultants hired by the site selection committee said the cost for a Canalside station would be between $34 million and $86 million, while the Central Terminal costs could rise as high as $149 million.
Higgins believes federal historic tax credits which could be available for the old station are not accounted for, and he said at least $70 to $100 million could be generated between private investment and state and matching federal funds. He also noted there could be cost savings elsewhere if the Central Terminal is chosen.
“Why hasn’t that been considered?” he asked. “Why hasn’t the cost associated both in terms of operations and capital costs, relative to the Depew station, which would not be necessary if you did the Central Terminal, why was that not considered?”
A spokesperson for Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, the chair of the site selection committee, (and also, incidentally, Cuomo’s hand-picked head of the state Democratic Party and a longtime ally of the governor), said potentially closing the Amtrak station in Depew is something that’s on the radar but it’s not within the scope of the current study.
He said final recommendations will be made based on the financials, data, and community input.
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