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Metro Rail extension to DL&W back on track after Congress restores program

The  Metro Rail expansion into the former DL&W terminal appears back on track after Congress last week restored money that the Trump administration had canceled for a federal grant initiative.

Now Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins are starting a process they hope will produce a key transportation and commercial center in the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad terminal at the foot of Main Street.

The two Democrats said they are supporting the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s application for a $16.3 million grant for the project.

“The DL&W Terminal will build on the success Buffalo’s waterfront is experiencing,” Schumer said. “The expansion of the rail line to the terminal will create space for private sector investment bringing good jobs, expanding the regional economy, and improving connectivity for rail and bus transit riders visiting Buffalo’s many attractions, including the KeyBank Center and (University at Buffalo) South Campus.”

The former DL&W Terminal “will build on the success Buffalo’s waterfront is experiencing,” Sen. Charles Schumer said. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

Higgins added that the DL&W project provides an opportunity for a multimodal facility that accommodates public transportation and private sector investment.

“A new station at the DL&W fills a critical hole in a center of activity surrounded by Canalside, the Cobblestone District, downtown Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus,” the congressman said. “The NFTA’s project brings together people traveling by rail, automobiles, bicycle trail and boats and transforms a neglected piece of Western New York’s unique history into a destination that serves the Buffalo of today and tomorrow.”

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, has also added bi-partisan support in an Oct. 12 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

"The project is also notable because it will not only improve public infrastructure and restore commercial activity to a commercial asset," he wrote, "but will return existing aspects of the Metro Rail line to a state of good repair, implement safety improvements to prevent fatalities and serious injuries in the districts, connect people to jobs, and add to the economic revitalization and job growth occurring around the site."

The once-abandoned terminal has long been eyed as a Metro Rail station serving KeyBank Center and for its retail potential. Built 100 years ago, it served freight and passenger rail as well as lake vessels until successor railroad Erie-Lackawanna left in 1963.

The NFTA acquired the building for its ground floor Metro Rail maintenance facility in the 1970s. But the 80,000-square-foot passenger shed that once served DL&W passenger trains on the second floor has been cited by some developers as space for commercial development.

The federal money is now expected to stimulate planning for a project to extend Metro Rail from the Canalside Station to the DL&W, create a new platform on the first floor to accommodate rail cars and passengers, and construct new stairs and elevator access to the second floor for potential private sector investment.

New York State already has committed $26 million for design and construction of the more than $40 million project. Schumer and Higgins are now sponsoring the NFTA application to the Department of Transportation for the federal TIGER – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – grant slated to cover the $16.3 million still needed.

“Using federal investment to build on the governor’s Buffalo Billion is a great way to add to and enhance all the exciting economic development in our region,” said NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel.

Higgins and Schumer previously secured $43.2 million in TIGER grants funding for the Cars Sharing Main Street project that is returning vehicle traffic to Main Street.

Front page, Feb. 1, 1917: DL&W Terminal opens

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