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NFTA lauds year's achievements

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority marked its final board session of the year Monday with an upbeat appraisal of the past 12 months.

The number of Metro Bus and Rail passengers has risen 7.2 percent from last year, and fare revenue climbed 3.4 percent. Rider complaints, meanwhile, dipped by 30 percent. Metro Buses also set a record for operating "on time": 79 percent.

For the NFTA's Surface Transportation Division overall, revenues increased while expenses declined, despite soaring diesel fuel costs. The authority's decision to purchase fuel in advance saved more than $600,000 from market prices, officials estimated.

In the NFTA's Aviation Division, the number of people boarding planes at Buffalo Niagara International Airport rose 10.2 percent from last year, compared with a national average of 5.7 percent. For a third consecutive year, the airport in Cheektowaga will set a record with more than 4.8 million travelers passing through its gates.

Lawrence M. Meckler, NFTA executive director, also noted the agreement for Buffalo Lakefront Development to acquire 120 acres of the authority's waterfront property for a $750 million project that will include marinas, retail and entertainment, as well as enhanced public access to the shoreline. The first phase of construction could start as early as next summer.

The authority also is prepared to oversee creation of a $9.6 million "greenway" that will deal with environmental issues while providing a pathway from the Bell Slip to the former site of Festival Grounds at The Pier.

An audit by State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi's office described the agency as "efficient and well-run," Meckler added.

Mary S. Martino, the NFTA's acting chairwoman, said that Luiz F. Kahl "would have been very proud of" this year. Kahl, the NFTA chairman, died early last month after battling cancer.

In other matters, the board approved paying $1.3 million to buy the site of John's Flaming Hearth restaurant at 1965 Military Road in the Town of Niagara for the NFTA's new Niagara County Transportation Center. The deal was expected to close withing 45 days.

The new facility would replace the transit hub on Fourth Street in Niagara Falls, which the NFTA sold to the Seneca Nation of Indians for casino development.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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