Erie County Legislator Charles M. Swanick says he is no great fan of the NFTA's $30 million plan to extend Metro Rail service through the Tonawandas.
Swanick, D-Kenmore, also wants to form a committee of Town and City of Tonawanda residents that would examine the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's proposal and help determine whether to pursue the plan.
"In the long run, the public will end up paying for this extension," Swanick said. "So, therefore, they should have every opportunity to review this proposal, seek out public opinion from the Tonawandas residents and prepare a full report."
The NFTA recently purchased a dozen 1949-vintage trolley cars from Cleveland's Regional Transit Authority. Preliminary plans call for the cars to be refurbished to shuttle Tonawanda-area passengers to a location near Metro Rail's LaSalle Station in Buffalo. The trolleys would run on a rail line owned by the NFTA.
This plan was advanced by the NFTA over a $300 million plan to extend Metro Rail to the Tonawandas.
Swanick contends the idea is doomed because it relies on an outmoded and inefficient system that will be more expensive to maintain and operate than the light-rail system in Buffalo.
Swanick said his staff fielded more than 1,400 telephone calls from angry constituents earlier this year when the NFTA and Erie County Legislature were wrangling over how to rescue the financially strapped authority.
He said many opposed the refurbished-trolley project.
Swanick emphasized he does not aim to create a public interest group. The panel's members should be "non-political" and "non-biased."
He envisions the group will prepare a public report -- based on independent findings and a poll of the area's 120,000 residents -- to be submitted to elected officials in the town and city.
Swanick said the NFTA already has approached the county to help fund the project.
Richard T. Swist, NFTA executive director, said Swanick's proail extension
posal is premature but has no objections to public participation.
"We are quite a ways away from having a feasibility study on this, even," he said. "It will be a lengthy and voluminous process. If Legislator Swanick wants to have a specific group look at our plan once we have something to propose, I have no problem with that whatsoever," Swist said.
Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline and Tonawanda Mayor Alice A. Roth said citizen participation would be appropriate once the NFTA unveils a plan for the project.
"The NFTA should have an opportunity to respond to any suggestions (from Swanick) prior to any action being implemented," Moline said.
Mayor Roth, who said she is "concerned about the environment," noted she has to be "receptive to the idea of mass transit."
"And of course, I think public input is most important."
Although NFTA officials have asked, neither town or city officials have said they would be interested in funding the project.
"In the long run, the public will end up paying for this extension. So, therefore, they should have every opportunity to review this proposal , seek out public opinion from the Tonawandas residents and prepare a full report." Charles M. Swanick Erie county Legislator .