Ricchiazzi: Stop Higgins from screwing up the riverfront

By Matt Ricchiazzi

Congressman Brian Higgins is urging the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to spend $43 million to redevelop the DL&W Terminal into a light rail station. That facility would only service the six-mile line that runs along Main Street from the Buffalo River to South Campus, and would not be capable of servicing Amtrak.

Largely driven by federal transportation grants that could fund up to 80% of the project’s cost, the project is not sound urban design nor is it a worthy economic development expenditure.

Congressman Higgins wants to waste taxpayer dollars to redevelop a building that the private sector would be eager to adaptively reuse – and would be willing to do so without this massive level of public subsidy.

Instead we should improve public access to the riverfront, repurpose underutilized train yards, and restore a historic street grid that will open up new development opportunities adjacent to the river’s edge.

The fiscal economics of the city demand that we put every parcel we can back on the tax rolls. The neighborhood is prime real estate that could be catalytically served by high quality urban design. Realigning the light rapid rail off of the riverfront and along South Park Avenue will free up this structure for private investment.

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  • Randy503

    Everyone keeps talking about building an underground Amtrak station at Exchange Street as part of this plan. Yet no one mentions the cost, which I estimate would be at least $40 million. That would be utterly ridiculous! The station only services about 40,000 people per year, and we would still have the decrepit Depew Station, which is non functional. It doesn’t work well because all passenger traffic must be serviced on the south track, which means that CSX and other freight trains have to be sidelined while the south track is boarding passengers.

    So why this push to build an underground station? I say take the $40 Million and use it to restore the Central Terminal. You can then close both Exchange and Depew stations, saving money and consolidating all passenger service where it should be.

    Then you simply extend the Metro from the DL&W station to the CT, which goes right past Larkinville, and it’s all on right of ways that NFTA already owns. Move the maintenance yards to the CT., and you then have tracks already laid to CT, so the only additional cost is building a station at Larkinville.

    Then if you want to get really fancy, you merely extend the Metro to Gallery Place and the Airport. Why? Again, NFTA already owns the rail right of way all the way to the airport!

    So if you want a cheap way to build out metro, all along surface track, just build it on right of ways that NFTA already owns all the way from DL&W to Larkinville, to CT, to Gallery Place and terminating at the airport. (at ECC North, which is just one mile further). And this way, you will have linked the suburbs to downtown, provided easy access to downtown from the airport and the Amtrak Station, all for fairly lost cost. It solves so many problems.

    So can anyone please explain to me why an underground train station at Exchange St is a good idea?

    • Brandi Berry

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  • jpw

    Citiziens for Regional Transit has been touting an Airport Corridor for decades, and this track vector (vs. one from, say, Court Street) makes sense.

    Little known fact: the blueprints for the current airport terminal and frontage had clear positioning of Metro Rail tracks. Now, of course, it’s all likely paid parking. . . .

    • Angelo Larsen

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