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The NFTA is expected to take a major step Monday toward revamping Greater Buffalo International Airport by approving a $4.1 million contract with an engineering consultant to oversee the five-year project.

Commissioners of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority voiced strong support during a meeting today for selecting O'Brien-Kreitzberg and Associates to supervise design and construction of the renovated $125 million airport.

"I was certainly impressed by their presentation," said Commissioner James M. Wadsworth. "It's a great choice and I think they'll do an excellent job."

Under terms of the agreement, the firm will develop four design alternatives aiming to enhance the airport's "gateway image," possibly including consolidation of the East and West terminals. The authority and an advisory staff will then select its best design.

The firm will then complete a 15 percent project design and monitor the activities and performance of the various design consultants selected by the NFTA.

Original plans called for the federal government to contribute about $1.9 million to the project, while the state would add almost $1.1 million and the NFTA another $1.2 million. But Executive Director Richard T. Swist said that new state policies regarding consultants could shortchange the authority.

Swist explained that the Department of Transportation is studying the possibility of limiting contributions for consultants to an amount comparable to what state employees would be paid for performing the same work. That could have far-reaching ramifications, he said.

"We could realize some potential disallowances," he said, "ranging from minimal to substantial."

Walter D. Zmuda, general manager of engineering, later added that the most the authority could be charged as a result of the new policy is about $250,000.

Swist recommended that the board still schedule the measure for Monday approval, since delaying a vote until the state adopts its new policy could cost even more. He said every month of delay results in a $625,000-per-month increase in the project's price tag.

"We could be delaying the contract by two to four months and inflation would eat up anything we saved by waiting," he said.

The board also scheduled for discussion Monday a contract with Transportation Displays Inc. for subway and bus advertising. TDI promised the authority $2.6 million in revenues, but most commissioners are wary of the firm because it is the successor to the Winston Network. Winston's earlier problems with the authority resulted in legal problems and a settlement that resulted in only about 50 cents on every dollar of revenue the NFTA expected.

"I'm uncomfortable with this," said Commissioner Ernestine R. Green, indicating she will not vote for the contract.

Several ideas regarding posting of a performance bond or guaranteed up-front payment will be discussed Monday as part of the contract.

Another item expected to be approved Monday is a contract to provide new blue uniforms for the transit police. Officers have long complained that their current brown uniforms often allowed passengers to view them as hired security guards.

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