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Higgins: Buffalo is about to make 'big, big mistake' backing Canalside for train station

Buffalo is about to make a “big, big mistake” by recommending a new rail station for Canalside, Rep. Brian Higgins said Monday, promising to continue his advocacy for a revitalized Central Terminal.

During a meeting with editors and reporters of The Buffalo News, the Buffalo Democrat said he suspects a special panel convened by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and headed by Mayor Byron W. Brown will recommend $25 million in state money for a new Amtrak station at the waterfront attraction when it issues its final report in April.

But the move will only clutter a Canalside site that he says is veering away from its original purpose.

“Trains and buses do not belong at Canalside,” he said. “This is supposed to be a celebration of the Buffalo waterfront for pedestrian use.

“I think they will end up making a big, big mistake,” he added.

Higgins, who has emerged as the most influential supporter of resurrecting the East Side landmark abandoned by Amtrak in 1979, did not single out Cuomo for the decision he anticipates. But he made it clear he views the Canalside decision as stemming from the state.

“This will be a decision imposed on Buffalo by Albany – again – and to its detriment,” he said, adding he will be “very vocal” in opposing any Canalside decision.

Cuomo released $1 million in state funds last fall to begin a study of how best to replace a deteriorating Exchange Street station in downtown Buffalo. Since then the panel of experts from the city, state, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, CSX Transportation and other entities have eliminated a potential Larkinville location. That leaves Canalside and Central Terminal as candidates for a final recommendation.

[Gallery: Buffalo's Central Terminal]

Canalside advocates like its inclusion in the new activity generated by Canalside, while pointing to its potential for a direct connection to Metro Rail.

But Higgins said Central Terminal – built by the New York Central Railroad in 1929 – best serves the community by offering western travel to Cleveland and Chicago unavailable from a downtown site. Rejuvenating Central Terminal would not only eliminate the need for Buffalo’s second Amtrak station at Dick Road in Depew, but would spark new development in the depressed Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

[Related: Higgins wants study of Canalside, Central Terminal for new train station]

Like government-sponsored infrastructure projects on Ohio, Niagara and Main streets, the congressman thinks a new facility on the city’s East Side would serve as a catalyst.

“To lose the opportunity to revitalize an area that’s been dead economically for so long as it has been would be a travesty,” he said, adding he rejects any idea that suburban rail travelers will shun the city location.

“Just because it’s inactive does not mean its’s unsafe,” he said.

Higgins also introduced the concept of moving the NFTA’s downtown bus station to a rehabilitated Central Terminal, freeing the Metropolitan Transportation Center for other purposes.

Potential sites of new train station take center stage

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