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PANEL EYES TRANSPORTATION NEEDS OF NEXT MILLENIUM

A wide range of proposals for Niagara County -- everything from Metro Rail and Amtrak stations to bicycle trails -- will be on the table for discussion when a 52-member advisory group meets today to begin working on a transportation blueprint for the first 20 years of the 21st century.

The advisory group will make recommendations for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Committee's long range plan extending through the year 2020.

The Transportation Committee, not to be confused with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, is a planning group for the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area that distributes $200 million a year in federal transportation funding. The Transportation Authority, on the other hand, operates the Metro Bus and Rail systems and the region's two major airports.

The Transportation Committee is required to update its long-range plan periodically. The last update was in 1993.

The advisory group which meets at 6:45 p.m. today in the Center for Competitiveness, 275 Oak St., Buffalo, will offer guidance to the Transportation Committee in the preparation of its new long-range plan.

Later, at least 20 public workshops will be held this year in Niagara and Erie Counties to gather additional opinions, and other rounds of public meetings will be held in 1999 and 2000. The plan is expected to be finalized in the year 2000.

Among the questions confronting workshop participants will be: Should more resources go into public transit or into additional highways?

Transportation alternatives in Niagara County could include:

Extension of the Metro Rail transit system from Buffalo's Main Street to the City of Niagara Falls and to Niagara Falls International Airport.

Extension of the LaSalle Expressway to North Tonawanda. The expressway now dead-ends at Williams Road in Wheatfield.

A corridor from the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge at the Niagara River to the Niagara Expressway (Interstate 190) and thus to the Niagara Thruway.

Improved traffic flow from the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge toward Rochester via Creek Road and Lake Road (Route 18).

Reconfiguration of the Robert Moses Parkway.

Improvements to Military Road in Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara.

Relocation of the Amtrak railroad passenger station from its present site off Lockport Street to a location closer to Downtown Niagara Falls.

The addition of an Amtrak station in Wheatfield.

The extension of the Lake Ontario Parkway westward to Olcott Beach.

A "people-mover" to serve tourists in Niagara Falls.

Extension of the Riverwalk pedestrian and bicycle trail.

"We are at a crossroads with our surface transportation systems," said Charles N. Frederiksen, executive director of the Transportation Committee. "For that reason, we are seeking an unprecedented level of input not only by community leaders but from informed citizens."

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