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NFTA approves funds for renovating Metro stations

Buffalo’s subway stations are starting to get old, and – in some cases – a little shabby, too.

As a result, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is launching a general spruce-up by attacking rust and decay in stations such as Delavan-Canisius College, while investing major amounts of money in mega-projects like replacing escalators in the University Station.

“Some of them are getting stained, they’re rusting, the paint is peeling, and they’re not presenting the type of appearance we want for any of our properties,” NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer said of the underground stations. “So we’re going to start working at the ones that are in worst condition first.”

As the Metro Rail system approaches its 30th anniversary, officials are encountering more and more maintenance problems inherent with an aging subway. Moisture is a constant problem underground, they point out, as is wear and tear from about 25,000 daily patrons.

“It gets a lot of use; it’s running constantly,” Hartmayer said. “It’s work that needs to be done. It’s just a matter of resources.”

As a result, NFTA commissioners Thursday approved a $131,000 project zeroing in on the mezzanine of Delavan-Canisius College Station, where wall panels on the 29-year-old facility are pocked by patches of ugly rust. The authority will replace the steel walls with ceramic tile, providing improvements in aesthetics, durability and maintenance.

NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel noted that money for major station overhauls is not available, but enough is on hand to start where problems are worse.

“We are slowly starting on the aesthetics of the stations,” she said.

Much more substantial work is needed on escalators that frequently break down and also present major financial challenges, Hartmayer said. The authority Thursday awarded a $426,166 contract to rebuild an escalator at University Station. Installed in 1983, it was refurbished about 12 years ago and has outlived its useful life by about two years, Hartmayer said. The project will take about four months to complete.

Thomas George, director of surface transportation for the NFTA, said Thursday the authority needs to begin planning for a program to address the long-term viability of aging escalators throughout the Metro Rail system.

Hartmayer, meanwhile, said the NFTA is preparing for a ridership surge in coming years as more and more commuters rely on Metro Rail for downtown jobs at facilities like the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“We’re going to have many new customers at the Medical Campus, and we know that image is everything,” he said.

In other business, the NFTA:

• Approved locating a new Tim Hortons shop at the downtown bus station in the area of the current information booth, which will be relocated.

• Welcomed four new members to the board of commissioners after their recent confirmations by the State Senate. They are: LaVonne E. Ansari, appointed by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and replacing Eunice A. Lewin; Anthony J. Baynes, appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and replacing Mark D. Croce; Dr. Wesley L. Hicks, appointed by the Erie County Legislature and replacing James J. Eagan; and Margo D. Downey, who joins the board as a result of legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, seeking a nonvoting member representing transit riders and the disabled community.