Congressman Brian Higgins Makes the Case for the Buffalo Central Terminal

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) issued a letter to the Lead Facilitator and fellow members of the ad-hoc committee on the location of Buffalo’s new intercity passenger rail station laying out the argument for Western New York’s new Amtrak station to be located at Buffalo’s Central Terminal.

1-1-p1020866“This community has come a long way in the last 15 years and we must take the confidence we’ve built over that period and proceed with a new train station at the Central Terminal,” said Higgins.  “The choice seems obvious.  We have a preserved historic terminal, with incredible rail infrastructure already in place that is currently owned and used by Amtrak.  We have a site that maximizes accessibility for passengers, automobiles and multi-modal options.  And we have an opportunity to expand the reach of Buffalo’s resurgence into a neighborhood for generations to come.”

Higgins makes a number of points in his letter to the committee including:

  • Canalside has no access to Chicago, Cleveland and the west:
    • The main east west lines of CSX and Amtrak are adjacent to the Central Terminal complex and proceed directly east to New York City, and directly west to Chicago when boarding from the Central Terminal.No detours or train switching would be necessary to access these major transportation hubs from the Central Terminal.None of the other sites can provide direct Chicago connection.
  • The Canalside site poses specific challenges to ADA compliance:
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires platforms that provide access through all of the train doors which open at a given site.The tracks through Canalside are on a curve which is problematic from the perspective of safety and ADA compliance.
  • Canalside has little room to accommodate buses for connectivity and car traffic associated with picking up and dropping off passengers:
    • As it stands now, there is little space at a potential Canalside station to accommodate parking, pickup and bus connectivity.Accessibility to a station at Canalside becomes even more difficult when sporting events, concerts or other public events flood the area with visitors.By contrast the Central Terminal includes turn-around points and a parking lot that can accommodate over 1,000 vehicles.
  • A station in or around Canalside represents limiting factors that continues to make Depew a publicly preferred alternative
    • The Depew Amtrak station currently attracts nearly 3 times more passengers daily than the Exchange Street station because the suburban station provides ample parking and access to Chicago.
  • The Community must decide what it wants to see at Canalside and for the Central Terminal
    • Millions of dollars in public infrastructure investments made possible through the NYPA settlement have gotten us to the critical point of private investment initiative at Canalside; but Buffalo’s turnaround will not be meaningful until it reaches into all of our neighborhoods.Embracing the return of passenger trains at the Central Terminal is a once in a generation opportunity that moves us beyond “what if” to “what is.”

1-14725450918_8df84889c2_bHiggins added, “In 2005 I secured the funding that led to the creation of Canalside and I am proud to have my office as one of the founding occupants of the Larkin Building.  Both Canalside and Larkin Square have grown to be among Western New York’s top destinations.  It wasn’t always that way.   Today these sites are great in their own right but logistical factors make them less than ideal for a new train station. Now we have a rare opportunity to expand Buffalo’s renaissance footprint just two miles down the road, to breathe new life into the Central Terminal and greater Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, and to proceed with the same determination and vision on this project as we have on other Buffalo success stories.”

The Central Terminal sits on an 18-acre site just 2.1 miles from the Larkin District, 2.7 miles from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, 3.5 miles from Canalside and 8.5 miles from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  The location is envisioned to be a multi-modal hub capable of accommodating train passengers, busses, and automobiles. The art deco masterpiece designed by Fellheimer & Wagner, the same architects that designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, was opened in 1929 and last accommodated regular train service in 1979.

Amtrak ridership has grown consistently in New York State over the last 7 years.  In Western New York (Buffalo, Depew, Niagara Falls Stations) ridership has increased by close to 50,000 since 2009 and remained consistent at around 190,000 passengers over the last 4 years.

Here is video from press conference today: