By Michael J. Billoni
Mayor Byron W. Brown gladly accepted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $1 million challenge to submit a location for a new train terminal here and appointed a “blue ribbon panel to study the question over the next six months.”
The choices are Canalside, Larkinville and the historic Central Terminal. Positives and negatives abound for each, and as a lifelong Western New Yorker, I know the merits of each to offer the panel a choice that can truly make our city “One Buffalo.”
The committee can make a bold statement by selecting the Central Terminal as its site and put that $1 million toward supporting developer Harry Stinson’s plan to create “Buffalo Central” on the site of the magnificent Central Terminal, and also to clean up Broadway, Clinton and William streets.
I have fond memories of my parents walking me through that 500,000-square-foot terminal to the train to Chicago in the mid-1960s to visit family and attend Cubs games.
Today, the Central Terminal is the least developed of the three sites. Canalside is the obvious choice because it’s a hot, growing area on our waterfront. The rapid transit is a few steps away and the KeyBank Center, HarborCenter and a potential future home of the Bills are within walking distance.
Amtrak last operated there in 1979. However, rail lines are there with room to accommodate the eight Amtrak trains that pass through daily with direct routes to and from Niagara Falls, Toronto and New York City. It can also provide routes west to Cleveland and Chicago. Most of the infrastructure is in place for a brand-new terminal inside the facility.
Stephen Fitzmaurice, who managed One Seneca Tower, is Stinson’s project director, and Carmina-Wood-Morris has drawn the plans for the $150 million to $200 million Buffalo Central Terminal project that would give our “New Buffalo” another area for living and entertainment.
Discussions have begun with NFTA officials about the tracks from the terminal to the airport. While light rail may not be economical, bus rapid transit could work at a fraction of the cost.
As for the distance to downtown, this is where the cleaned-up three thoroughfares come in. Get Uber legislation passed, create a hop-on, hop-off trolley service and double-decker Metro buses for transportation options to take guests anywhere. A ride downtown will have them all saying, “I never knew this existed in Buffalo.”
Dollars should be dedicated from the Erie County Bed Tax to promote visits by train for what RiverWorks visionary Earl Ketry calls “A four-day weekend” trip to Western New York.
“A restored Central Terminal would be a phenomenal gateway to Buffalo and Western New York,” Fitzmaurice said.
Marva L. Threat, president of the neighboring Greater Eastside Fields of Dreams Block Association, adds, “A train station in the Central Terminal could be just what’s needed to spur further development and revitalization in neighborhoods on the greater East Side. It’s time to get us all together to put the neighbor back in the hood.”
Michael J. Billoni, of Grand Island, is managing partner of Billoni Associates.