Posts Tagged ‘Buffalo’

Buffalo Developer Seeks Ideas for Uses of Station

February 23, 2021

Developer Samuel J. Savarino is seeking ideas about how to use vacant space in a Buffalo, New York, railroad station.

Savarino has approached officials in government, businesses, and other interested parties on what uses could be made of vacant space in the 103-year-old Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal for which he has paid a $36,000 “pre-development agreement fee” to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

NFTA operates yards and shops at track level at the terminal for its light rail system.

The developer is looking to redevelop 60,000 square feet of indoor space that is located on the building’s second floor and 40,000 square feet of outdoor platform area.

Among the possible uses Savarino has identified are a public market, museum space and restaurants

Savarino estimated the terminal needs $10 million in plumbing and electric work, roof stabilization, and other modifications before redevelopment can proceed.

Buffalo Resume Fare Collection on Rail, Buses

June 29, 2020

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority resumed on Monday (June 29) collecting fares for Buffalo Metro Bus and Rail lines.

Collection of the $2 fare had been suspended on March 27 at the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passengers were also instructed to enter buses and transit cars through rear doors in order to enforce social distancing measures and avoid contact with operators.

With the resumption of fare collecting, passengers will now be able to enter through the front doors.

“We are responding to many business reopening,” said NFTA spokeswoman Helen Tederous.

Agency officials said they believe that COVID-19 cases have dropped to safer levels.

Passengers will continue to be required to wear face masks and to practice social distancing aboard vehicles.

Riders also are being encouraged to use the Token Transit contactless mobile ticketing app on their smart phones.

Buffalo Rail Transit Projects Get Cold Shoulder from Feds

February 22, 2020

A proposed extension in Buffalo, New York, of a light rail line has failed to clear a key hurdle required by the Federal Transit Administration.

The $1.4 billion Metro Rail Amherst Light Rail Extension project did not make the list of projects eligible for a federal New Start grant.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, had been discussing the project for years with FTA.

Failure to make the New Starts lists means the project will be delayed at least another year and that its cost may increase.

FTA rarely funds projects that have not made its New Starts Program eligibility list.

The project would extend the existing 6.4-mile light rail line from its northern terminus at the University at Buffalo South Campus to Amherst through Tonawanda. The extension would link to UB’s North Campus.

Despite not making the FTA New Starts list a draft environmental impact study of the extension has been released and will be the subject of public hearings on Feb. 25 and 26.

Project supporters are hoping to have federal funding cover half the project cost with the other half shared by the state and local partners.

NFTA has also struck out three time in seeking to get federal funding to extend the light rail line to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Terminal in downtown Buffalo.

NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said that was disappointing but that funding for the extension could come from other sources of capital funding being provided by the state.

“One way or another we will complete this project,” she said while vowing to find other sources of funding.

The agency had sought a federal BUILD grant for the D&LW terminal extension.

Minkel said the U.S. Department of Transportation said it was a “good project” but has signaled its preference for rural efforts, and roads and bridges over urban transit.

In the meantime, work has already begun to build track and overhead wires leading to the Metro Rail Yard and Shops complex on the DL&W’s ground floor as part of the overall $46 million project.

NFTA wants to create a new Metro Rail stop on the Buffalo River side of the station that would return rail passenger traffic to the facility for the first time since the Erie Lackawanna ceased intercity rail service there in 1962.

The Savarino Companies development firm has proposed creation of a public market and other uses for 80,000 square feet of internal and 60,000 square feet of outdoor space at the terminal.

Minkel said $19 million that it requested from Buffalo Billion funds that the state has already approved can be used for the project which means NFTA is about $6 million short of what it needs.

Minkel said the agency can work around that. “The $6 million we identified as nice to have but not essential,” she said.

Other funding sources will need to pay for such things as fixtures, flooring and lighting components.

This could include private foundations, historic tax credits and “other opportunities down the road.”

To finish the D&LW terminal project, NFTA will defer other work on its rail line, including planned projects to replace track and wires in the subway.

Minkel said those project will be completed eventually and that delaying the work will not compromise safety.

Buffalo has the only rail transit system in upstate New York.

Buffalo Committee Favors Downtown Station Site

April 24, 2017

The committee studying sites for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, has recommended building the station downtown rather than renovating the abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal.

The exact site will be chosen by the New York Department of Transportation, although it is expected to be along Exchange Street.

The new station is expected to cost at least $35 million, of which the state is contributing $25 million.

Currently, Buffalo is served by two stations, one at Exchange Street and the other in suburban Depew.

Exchange Street serves all trains passing through Buffalo except the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Eleven of the 17 members of the station site committee favored a downtown location while four voted against downtown. One member abstained.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz voted against the downtown recommendation because he opposed the “arbitrary timeline” given the committee to make a decision this month.

“Not all the issues were taken into account,” Poloncarz said. “The process was flawed but not rigged. And, no, this is not the death knell for the [Buffalo] Central Terminal.”

But Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown defended the timeline. “The governor clearly wants it to be a fast-track process, and I think the same kind of time constraints we had as a committee will be placed on the Department of Transportation,” said Brown, who voted for a downtown location.

A downtown location had been favored by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering consulting firm hired by the state.

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman and head of Empire State Development, the state’s development arm, voted for downtown.

“This is really a transportation decision first and foremost, and from that standpoint downtown is a clear winner,” he said.

Zemsky said it was not a case of either or in terms of development of the long-dormant Central Terminal.

The Amtrak representative on the committee favored a downtown location. CSX, which owns the tracks in the vicinity of Central Terminal, said it doesn’t want passenger trains at Central Terminal because that might interfere with a nearby freight yard.

Intercity bus companies also favor a downtown site because they fear that clearance issues could prevent them from serving Central Terminal.

Also working against Central Terminal was the estimated $68 million to $149 million cost of renovating the structure. A downtown location is estimated to cost between $33 million and $86 million.

The Buffalo congressman who had championed Central Terminal was disappointed at the committee’s decision.

“This is a generational opportunity lost, said Brian Higgins said. “Obviously, the Central Terminal was not going to win out in an apples-to-apples cost comparison. It’s the vision you have for the property, and what you do with the opportunity.”

Higgins said the downtown location will preclude passengers being able to board there if they are bound for Cleveland or Chicago.

He noted that Amtrak opposes having the Lake Shore Limited backing up for more than a mile to serve downtown Buffalo.

Higgins vowed to work to funnel state and federal funding toward development of Central Terminal.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy supported the Central Terminal and believes that although it lost out in the vote to become an Amtrak station there remains hope that the iconic structure will have a new life.

“There has been more attention paid to the Central Terminal than probably in the last 50 years,” Kennedy said. “I think this is going to be at the end of the day a win-win because of the renewed focus on transforming the Central Terminal into a historic building we can all be proud of once again.”

In the meantime, Canadian developer Harry Stinson said he is close to closing on a deal to acquire the 523,000-square-foot Central Terminal, which includes a 17-story tower, concourse building, baggage building and ample underground and street-level parking.

“We’re days away from the final version of the agreement,” Stinson said. “It will have to go through a process, but the agreement is essentially done. There is nothing we see as collectively insurmountable.”

Stinson said he wants to develop the tower into office space, use the concourse for entertainment, dining and special events and transform the baggage building into a hotel.

Eventually, he will develop new housing at the site, which is now considered a brownfield.

Steel Mill That Made Rails Burns

November 11, 2016

A factory in Lackawanna, New York, that made rail burned this week.

train image2The former Bethlehem Steel mill buildings in suburban Buffalo caught fired after a light bulb touched off flammable materials in the decades-old complex.

The plant made rail that is still used on many railroad lines today. The complex also was used to make steel for locomotives, tanks, warships and automobiles.

The mill that rolled the rails was closed in the 1980s.

Buffalo Exchange Street Station Closed After Heavy Rainfall Leads to Ceiling Collapse

September 22, 2016

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, has been closed after heavy rain caused the ceiling to collapse.

Amtrak 3The city of Buffalo, which owns the station, has indicated that it will seek cost estimates about repairing the facility, which is served by New York-Niagara Falls Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

All of those trains plus the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited are also served by another Amtrak station in suburban Buffalo in Depew, New York.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak said a contractor has been sent to the site to evaluate the condition of the building. Stepniak said the city will explore various options before moving forward.

The ceiling collapse occurred near the passenger waiting area last weekend and the station was closed on Monday.

Earlier this month, another portion of the ceiling collapsed, prompting the closure of the station’s ticket office.

Amtrak will continue to serve the station in the meantime. The passenger carrier said it is working with the New York State Department of Transportation, but is not directly involved in station repairs because it does not own the station.

A passenger train advocate said the situation underscores the need for a new station in Buffalo near the city’s waterfront.

“We are very concerned over the immediate safety implications, and the loss of service to the increasingly vibrant downtown Buffalo area,” said Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Buffalo Central Union Terminal Redevelopment Financing Tied to Building Adjacent New Housing

May 31, 2016

The iconic Buffalo Central Terminal will be developed by a Toronto developer who also plans to construct housing in the neighborhood surrounding the long-closed train station.

Central Terminal is owned by Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and its rehabilitation will be financed by the sale of 400 to 500 new townhouses.

Developer Harry Stinson earlier won approval of the Buffalo Common Council to develop a master plan to transform the railroad depot into a mixed used facility that would include a hotel and banquet facilities.

Stinson will spend the next six months meeting with pubic officials, preservationists and neighborhood stakeholders to refine the station’s master plan.

He must buy the land for the townhomes from the city and pay it $1,000 a month during the length of the six-month agreement, which can be extended by six months.

Stinson said he expects to invest up to $100 million on the Central Terminal building.

He expects to sell the townhouses for $200,000 to $300,000 apiece and target them toward employees of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

He told the city that townhouses will help to create neighborhood that will have the feel of a village.

Some business that would cater to that neighborhood could be located within the station building.

Central Terminal opened in 1929 and closed in 1979. It once served 200 trains and 10,000 passengers a day.

A non-profit group acquired the station in 1997 with the idea of restoring it.

It has since repaired the four clocks on the office tower and reopened the main concourse in 2003.

Buffalo Eyes Replacing Exchange Street Station

July 17, 2015

Exchange Street station in Buffalo, New York, may be replaced by an underground facility, city officials say.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. say they want to place the station below an undeveloped tract of land north of the canal.

“Instead of getting off at a site that leads you to believe nothing is happening around you, you would now get off at a site where you’re entering what is planned to be a very vibrant area of the City of Buffalo,” said Brendan R. Mehaffy, executive director of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning.

The current station is a small brick structure located beneath an interstate highway interchange in downtown Buffalo.

It is served by Amtrak’s Empire Service trains and the New York-Toronto Maple Leaf.

In 2014, the station served 41,220 passengers, which was a 7.4 percent increase over 2013 patronage and more than double what it served in 2004.

Mayor Brown has been calling for a train station at Canalside for years.

“Erie Canal Harbor and the Mayor’s Office are on the same page about exploring the feasibility of putting the train station at the northern end of the site before any other projects are finalized,” Mehaffy said. “If we can get it done, it’s worth the investment in the area.”

Waterfront agency board member Sam Hoyt said the board has been discussing placing an Amtrak station on what is described as the northern Aud block.

“We are in the process of considering the next steps there, and a train station will absolutely be a part of that discussion,” he said.

Ten years ago, Hoyt called for having Amtrak use a proposed transportation that would have been placed at the site of the since demolished Memorial Auditorium.

A study conducted at the time found that a station at Canalside was feasible.

“We did thorough research when I was an assemblyman, and the answer is that the short tunnel under which the track goes underground could accommodate a station. It’s definitely doable,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt rode Amtrak between Buffalo and Albany when he served in the state assembly and said that a new station is long overdue.

“You want visitors welcomed by a good first impression,” he said. “As we have done with Buffalo Niagara International Airport, you are greeted by a beautiful state-of-the-art, well-designed airport. You come by Amtrak, and the message is certainly not that this is a city on the move, a city that is growing, prospering and has turned itself around.”

A new Amtrak station would require federal, state and city funds to build, but Hoyt said that hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Canalside in recent years.

The site has also been listed as possible location for a new stadium for the NFL Buffalo Bills.

“Including a high-quality, intermodal station in the future development of the Aud site makes enormous sense,” Hoyt said. “The Mayor’s Office and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. agree that if we’re going to do a station in Buffalo, it ought to be at that site.”

Bruce B. Becker, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, agreed that the current station needs to be replaced.

“We feel Exchange Street is barely adequate, given the increasing ridership out of the station,” Becker said. “Our organization feels adamantly that with the development of downtown and Canalside and HarborCenter, there is a need for a much-improved Amtrak facility serving downtown.”

Amtrak serve Buffalo through two stations. The Empire corridor trains, Maple Leaf and the Chicago-New York Lake Shore Limited all stop at a station in suburban Depew.

Hey! Be Careful Where You Point That Thing

February 25, 2015

More than likely a CSX employee has been told where he aims that thing after several residents in Buffalo, N.Y., complained of having their homes damaged by ballast sent flying by a jet blower used to clear snow from the tracks.

The blower sent baseball-sized rocks crashing through windows of homes on Linden and Crescent avenues in North Buffalo.

Some of the residents told WIBV-TV that they thought their homes were being robbed.

CSX said its workers were clearing snow from tracks that are located about 100 feet from Crescent Avenue. The snow blower was on the side of the tracks.

Pat McDonell said he found damage to the side of his home and even his car. There was visible damage to both, including a smashed-in wood frame with broken glass.

“I came out to throw the trash away and I noticed all four windows of the back of my house had been shattered including my wood frame,” McDonell said. “I found out shortly after that it was a railroad snow thrower that was throwing rocks the size of a fist.”

Reports of damage came from residents on both sides of the tracks on Crescent and Linden Avenues. Whinney Finbar lives on Crescent and is hoping that CSX fixes the damage.

“In all the 62 years I’ve lived here they’ve never used a snow blower back there that I know of,” Finbar said. “I’ve never had this problem. If they make it right I’m not upset.”

CSX apologized to homeowners and said anyone with damage caused by the flying rocks can call their claims center at 1-877 TELLCSX or 877-835-5279.

‘On Your Honor” Ending in Buffalo

December 23, 2014


The light rail system in Buffalo, N.Y., is ditching the honor system in favor of a “tap-n-go” smart card with turnstile entry.

A pair of contracts totaling almost $18 million also includes new fare boxes for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s bus system. Scheidt & Bachmann USA will receive a $16.4 million design and construction services contract, while Louis T. Klauder and Associates  has been awarded a $1.4 million to monitor design support and construction.

Officials estimate the agency loses 3 percent of revenue due to fare evasion. The new system is expected to be fully implanted in about two years.