Building a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, will take some time and it won’t come cheap.
But those pushing for a new station are optimistic that it will be built.
That was the consensus at a recent public meeting to discuss what needs to be done to get a depot to replace the current Exchange Street station.
That facility closed last month after its ceiling caved in following heavy rains.
Amtrak’s Empire Service and Maple Leaf continue to stop at Exchange Street.
For now, the only open station building in Buffalo is in suburban Depew, which is also served by the Lake Shore Limited.
Among the options for a new station are building in Canalside or restoring Buffalo Central Terminal, which has not hosted scheduled passenger trains since 1979.
Speakers at the hearing said that before a station can be built, the region needs to undertake a study, obtain funding and gain the support of political officials.
Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said it remains to be seen if if the city or the state should guide the process.
“The key is finding the right agency or government organization to take the lead,” Becker said. “The City of Buffalo would be a natural to do that because it’s in the City of Buffalo, and would benefit the City of Buffalo. But somebody has to say, ‘I’m going to step up because this is important.’ ”
An advantage of using Central Terminal is that it would be able to serve all Amtrak trains passing through Buffalo.
Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis said his city spent nearly two decades planning and constructing a new station that Amtrak still has not agreed to use.
“You’re in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker,” he said. “It won’t probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we’ve gone over all of the options. We’ve weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want.”
The Niagara Falls station cost $43 million.
Becker said rehabilitating Central Terminal would be a more complex project than was constructing the station in Niagara Falls.
“We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark,” Becker said. “A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that’s a huge undertaking.”
The challenge of renovating the existing Exchange Street Station is that it is in a less than ideal location and is not handicapped accessible. The station, the platform and the tracks have different ownership.