If you were to build a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, where would you put it?
Near the present site on Exchange Street? At the Central Terminal? At Canalside?
And then the big question: How would you pay for it?
Those are questions Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants discussed at a summit in Washington.
Buffalo’s embattled downtown station temporarily closed more than a week ago after the ceiling collapsed in the passenger waiting area. The shoebox-sized station, built in 1952, is the only one between Albany and Buffalo not to be upgraded since the late-1990s.
Schumer invited representatives from Amtrak, the City of Buffalo, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, and Rep. Brian Higgins to meet to develop a plan and funding strategy for a new rail station.
“The incident last week should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and Amtrak, in conjunction with local officials and the federal government, now has a unique opportunity to create a comprehensive strategy to upgrade and modernize this aged train station,” Schumer said.
“Western New Yorkers deserve a modern, safe and efficient train station – not the outdated and dilapidated and increasingly dangerous station they have now ... Modernized rail service is also key to connecting tourists, residents and workers to the entire region, from Canalside to Niagara Falls,” the senator said.
Schumer’s call for action comes two days after Higgins called on the state Department of Transportation to conduct a study for a new station in Canalside or at the Central Terminal. Higgins noted that $25 million was included earlier this year for a Buffalo train station in a transportation program for capital improvements. He wants $1 million to $2 million released now to study alternative sites.
“Buffalo has a rich history when it comes to rail travel; the Buffalo Central Terminal was once one of the great gateways to Buffalo,” Schumer said. “However, visitors now arrive in Buffalo and are greeted by a crumbling, small, and unwelcoming train station.
“We have a tremendous opportunity, especially now as Congress continues to work with Amtrak to improve and modernize rail service, to rethink Buffalo’s station, and we should not let that opportunity go to waste,” Schumer said.
Erie Canal Harbor board member Sam Hoyt said the state agency planned to attend the meeting. The waterfront agency and Mayor Byron W. Brown’s office have discussed putting a new station in a 2ø-acre parcel at Canalside, just north of the canal.
“It’s always great to have the senior senator from New York as an ally,” Hoyt said.
Representatives for Higgins, the City of Buffalo and the NFTA all said they looked forward to attending the meeting.