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Empire State Development announces NFTA board of commissioners-approved WSP consultants for environmental review, preliminary design for Amherst Metro Rail extension


Thu, Feb 22nd 2018 04:15 pm
Buffalo Billion milestone marks major move to connect communities and build on region's economic progress through rail expansion
Empire State Development announced the NFTA board of commissioners awarded the environmental review and associated engineering design service contract to the Buffalo office of WSP Inc., one of the world's largest engineering firms, for phase one in the Amherst Metro Rail extension. ESD said, "This is a major milestone in a visionary project under the Buffalo Billon program."
"This is an important step in the second phase of the Buffalo Billion that will ultimately connect communities as well as Buffalo Billion investments, and provide significant economic progress through rail expansion," ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said. "Thanks to Gov. Cuomo's leadership, we're now making critical investments in projects like the light rail, which will improve the overall reliability and connectivity of transportation services, as well as the upcoming DL&W station that will further enhance the region's quality of life."
"This is an historic and exciting day for the NFTA," NFTA Executive Director Kimberley Minkel said. "We are grateful to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his support and vision for this transformational project."
In 2017, the NFTA completed the Transit Options Amherst-Buffalo Alternatives Analysis (AA), which recommended a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for extending the existing light rail system along the Niagara Falls Boulevard alignment. This alignment is generally defined as an extension from the existing terminus at University Station underground along Bailey Avenue to a portal near Eggert Road. It would then travel at grade along Niagara Falls Boulevard turning onto Maple Road then to Sweet Home Road, onto UB North Campus to Audubon Parkway, where it would terminate near the I-990.
On Jan. 9, 2017, Cuomo announced $5 million in funding would be made available under the Buffalo Billion II program to complete the environmental review for the light rail extension into Amherst. The NFTA board approved this LPA on Jan. 26, 2017, and authorized staff to initiate the environmental review process, including preliminary design as the next step toward implementation of the project.
"This feasibility study will give us some critical information on the most reasonable path for the light rail expansion," Amherst Chamber of Commerce President/CEO A.J. Baynes said. "Providing improved access to the future redevelopment of Niagara Falls Boulevard and the University at Buffalo will only continue our growth and prosperity in the region."
"Redefining and preparing our communities to meet demands of future residents requires investment in transit and connectivity," Town of Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said. "Enhanced transit is important to the future of the Town of Amherst, the Town of Tonawanda, and the future of Western New York. Enhanced transit will provide access to jobs and workforce mobility, link regional educational institutions, and support the transformation of Niagara Falls Boulevard."
The scope of the work that will be done by WSP includes:
•Refinement of the LPA, including;
  • Re-evaluating the LPA alignment versus entering Niagara Falls Boulevard earlier
  • Re-evaluating median running versus side running or another alignment
  • Additional storage and maintenance facilities
  • Conduct public outreach and agency coordination (including local, state and federal agencies)
  • Develop NEPA scoping packet
  • Conduct NEPA and follow the required federal guidance to complete DEIS and FEIS
  • Conduct conceptual design of the LPA (description above)
  • Conduct a traffic impact study and refine STOPS modeling with the addition of special market trips
  • Develop operations plans for extending LRT
More information about Buffalo Billion Phase II and the Light Rail Extension can be found HERE.

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