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Schumer seeks to speed studies on extending Metro Rail

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is emerging as a Washington advocate for new efforts to extend Metro Rail to Amherst as he seeks a streamlined bureaucratic process to save $1 million in costs and cut a year off the timeline.

Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Tuesday he is asking the Department of Transportation and its Federal Transit Administration to modify a grant he previously secured for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. The move would take advantage of new rules enabling the NFTA to combine its transportation and environmental studies into one effort, now allowed under the recently passed two-year transportation bill called MAP-21.

He said the NFTA can “walk and chew gum at the same time” as it conducts the simultaneous studies.

“That is why I am urging the feds to let NFTA take advantage of the new rules and expedited transportation project process to speed up the required reviews,” he said. “Allowing the reviews to proceed on parallel tracks is common sense, cuts red tape, speeds the process and saves taxpayers money.”

He noted the NFTA has begun studying the long-desired extension of Metro Rail to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus and, now, beyond to the CrossPoint Business Park. The authority contends that growth in Amherst, the need to transport a burgeoning workforce to the new Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on the north edge of downtown, and environmental considerations could justify at least studying proposed transit alternatives.

NFTA officials have said the study may recommend nothing, a bus rapid transit system, or an expanded light-rail system from its current northern terminus at the UB South Campus. They have used the $1.2 million Schumer grant to begin the study process, with an end still several years away.

Schumer said the Federal Transit Administration has preliminarily indicated its willingness to consider the changes.