Congressman encourages selection of 'alternative B' to facilitate transit-oriented development at site connecting Canalside, the Buffalo River and Cobblestone District
Congressman Brian Higgins is encouraging the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to pursue "alternative B," also known as the Buffalo River plan, in a study examining options to enhance access and expand connectivity along the southern end of the Metro Rail line in downtown Buffalo.
"Today's decisions will determine tomorrow's opportunities, and the Buffalo River option that fully integrates the DL&W Terminal into the future of Metro Rail gives this community the best opportunities moving forward," Higgins said.
The NFTA is currently considering options relative to the proposed extension of Buffalo's Metro Rail beyond its current last stop at the Special Events Station at First Niagara Center, around the foot of Main Street to the DL&W building along South Park Avenue.
"Alternative A," the South Park option, would provide a new station platform along South Park Avenue on the north side of the DL&W. Alternative B would allow for Metro Rail cars to pull right into the DL&W, delivering passengers to a stop on the ground floor of the DL&W adjacent to the Buffalo River.
In addition to a new platform on the first floor of the DL&W Terminal, the Buffalo River alternative includes stair and elevator access to the second level of the terminal, a pedestrian bridge spanning South Park Avenue, public access to the Riverwalk and the option for future extensions.
Higgins said the Buffalo River Plan (alternative B) best represents current planning preferences centered on transit-oriented development, which focus on integrating transportation centers with mixed-use development. In addition, the Buffalo River alternative creates a multimodal transportation hub allowing for bus and automobile traffic along South Park, light rail within the DL&W Terminal, connections to bicycle and pedestrian trails along the water's edge, as well as boat and kayak opportunities in the Buffalo River.
Projects adopting transit-oriented development and multimodal components are viewed favorably by federal and state transportation departments responsible for allocating transportation funding. Just this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted the department is especially interested in seeing applications for multimodal public transit projects and encouraged cities to submit commuter rail proposals.
"Transit-oriented development capitalizes on public infrastructure investments to leverage private sector economic development," Higgins said. "Through this approach, we create jobs and a greater sense of place and connectivity within the city."
The interior DL&W stop would complement transit-oriented development currently underway down the tracks with construction of the University at Buffalo Medical School above the existing Allen Street Station within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The DL&W Terminal sits at the epicenter of development, surrounded by the $200 million HARBORCENTER project, Canalside, a $40 million expansion at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and Buffalo River Projects, including Riverworks, and a new lodge under construction at Buffalo River Fest Park. With the available development parcels at Canalside and the $11 million reconstruction of Ohio Street, growth and demand in the area is only expected to grow.
"Buffalo's renaissance is underway, because we have learned to embrace the characteristics that are uniquely ours and remake them to meet the demands of today and tomorrow," Higgins said. "The historic DL&W Terminal, built nearly 100 years ago, has a grand presence as a former center for rail passengers and Great Lakes shipments. The prospect of reawakening this site with new activity holds incredible potential."
Last September, Higgins released a report detailing the more than $169 million in federal investments made along the Buffalo River over the past decade. In the report, he listed development at the DL&W Terminal as an important next step in Buffalo's waterfront revival. Higgins previously secured the $249 million New York Power Authority federal relicensing settlement that continues to fund redevelopment at Canalside and Buffalo's Outer Harbor.
Higgins recognized the NFTA's work on the plan.
"We applaud the NFTA's foresight and community involvement," Higgins said. "Now, the decision is ours. Do we want to create a rail stop or a destination?"
Exterior B, above, and interior B.