Buffalo Mulls Pros, Cons of New Station Sites

The debate over where to place a new Amtrak station in Buffalo continued this week with public hearing held by the committee appointed by the governor to consider a station site.

Brian Higgins, a western New York congressman, has been pushing hard for the choice of Buffalo Central Terminal.

But others favor a downtown location either near the site of the current Exchange Street station or at the site of the former Memorial Auditorium.

Supporters of a downtown site say it would be closer to Metro Rail, bus routes, hotels and other amenities.

“When you invest in the future, the action is always going to be downtown, adjacent to Canalside and the transit system,” said Robert Dingman, president of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad.

But supporters of Central Terminal say that reviving it as a train station would could be the last opportunity to restore the endangered art deco structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in danger of continuing a life of decay.

Placing Amtrak into Central Terminal, they say, could help boost a neighborhood that hasn’t seen significant investment in decades.

“If we can follow through and restore this great historic structure, and give it back to the people of Buffalo and to future generations, we will have done a great public service,” Higgins said.

A 17-member committee established by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and chaired by Mayor Byron W. Brown will decide next month the location of the new station.

Transportation officials have indicated that it is not an either-or situation. Both sites could be tapped to become Amtrak stops with one designated as the main station and the other as a secondary stop.

The committee will also weigh the view of Amtrak and CSX, which owns the tracks used by Amtrak trains.

A desire to link the new train station with city bus service and possibly bus service between cities could also be a factor.

Officials say that Central Terminal, which opened in 1929, would be the best location to serve east-west Amtrak trains, including the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Central Terminal has the infrastructure to handle buses and taxis and offers more than 1,000 parking spaces.

It is not expected that all of Central Terminal would be used by Amtrak, which last stopped there in 1979.

Working against Central Terminal is its location a mile well away downtown Buffalo and a neighborhood filled with abandoned and vacant housing.

Critics also say the structure is too large for eight trains a day and that commercial development of it is not necessarily tied to its being used again as a train station.

“The train station is not the silver bullet for the East Side,” said architect Paul Battaglia. “Amtrak is not big enough, or have enough ridership.”

One drawback of the downtown site is that although it could be served by the Lake Shore Limited, Nos. 48 and 49 would need to make a backup move.

Neither Amtrak nor CSX might be willing to allow that.

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