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Higgins optimistic Congress will restore DL&W funds

Rep. Brian Higgins senses a bipartisan willingness to restore funds that could spell new life for downtown Buffalo’s Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad terminal, despite the Trump administration’s proposed elimination of a host of federal transportation programs.

The Buffalo Democrat chose the century-old landmark Wednesday to add his opposition to cutting programs the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is eyeing for extending Metro Rail to the DL&W, and to Amherst in a separate project. He called the administration’s move “shortsightedness,” and said he will use his position as a vice ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee to seek their restoration.

“There is likelihood that Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, will do that,” he said. “My hope is, that over the next several weeks, we will work together ... to restore funding that is fundamentally important to the growth of the nation’s economy.”

The NFTA is studying a $1.2 billion extension of Metro Rail to beyond the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. But Higgins said he remains immediately concerned about the $42 million DL&W project, which has already received a $20 million commitment from New York State.

“We see this as a very real project,” he said, adding Metro Rail could be extended to the terminal’s first floor and its second floor prepared for private development within 12 to 24 months – with federal support.

The congressman said a program that has already funded the return of traffic to much of Main Street could also pay for the DL&W project. The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants could work for DL&W, he said, while other targeted funds like the New Starts program offered by the Federal Transit Administration can fund the Amherst extension.

“There needs to be a general commitment to find the resources necessary to grow the economy,” he said.

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