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NEW NIAGARA FALLS BUS TERMINAL BEING PLANNED

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is leaning toward building a new Niagara Falls bus terminal in the Niagara Falls Boulevard-Military Road area, four miles from downtown.

It also may change the routing of Falls bus lines so regular customers will not need to transfer as often, and to better accommodate shoppers and tourists.

"We want to have a preliminary plan in place by fall," Robert W. Gower, manager of service planning, said after discussing the proposed terminal location with NFTA commissioners at their monthly meeting Monday.

The facility would replace the bus terminal that the Seneca Nation of Indians bought for $3 million a year ago and replaced with a parking garage for Seneca Niagara Casino. In the interim, NFTA buses have been using a temporary site on North Rainbow Boulevard, across from the Wintergarden.

Proceeds from the sale of the old Niagara Falls International Transportation Center would be used to build the new bus station, Gower said. The proposed location is near the present core of commercial activity in the city -- a triangle formed by the Prime Outlets mall, Summit Park Mall and Niagara Falls International Airport.

The site ties in with the tentative plan for more-flexible bus operations. Routes that currently begin and end downtown would be changed to "more of a through structure" based on where the more than 1,000 regular riders live, work and shop, Gower said. The hope is to eliminate or sharply curtail the number of times they have to get off one bus and wait for another.

Trolleys that currently shuttle tourists from the falls to downtown would connect with regular bus lines for those who want to travel to the outlet mall, airport or other outlying locations.

The proposed changes emerged from a series of workshops conducted earlier this year to solicit ideas from government, institutional and business leaders as well as NFTA patrons and employees.

NFTA Chairman Luiz F. Kahl said the same service evaluation procedure should be repeated in Erie County once the Niagara Falls plan is in place.

No timetable has been set for the new Falls bus terminal, but Gower calculated that land acquisition and design will take up to a year, with another year needed for construction.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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