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How much would new Buffalo train station cost?

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Buffalo might get a new train station or two, but it will not be quick, simple or cheap. That was the message delivered Wednesday night at a meeting about a new downtown station.

Right now, the Exchange Street Station - known as BFX to Amtrak - is out of service because a ceiling is coming down, blamed on water leaks. It was not intended to last forever, but shutting the building for repairs has triggered a conversation about repair or replacement or, as many who are interested favor, recycling Buffalo's Central Terminal.

Niagara Falls Senior Planner Tom DeSantis says there are lessons in the nearly two decades his city spent building a new train station, which Amtrak still has not agreed to use.

"You're in a much better place. The state is in a much better place. And I think your experience with this is going to be a lot quicker," said DeSantis. "It won't probably be any less contentious, but it should go a lot quicker, arriving at kind of A-OK, we've gone over all of the options. We've weighed all of the alternatives. We think we know what we want."

The Niagara Falls train station, under construction in July.

The audience was told by Niagara Falls officials their new station took $43 million and nearly 20 years. Buffalo Niagara Partnership Economic Development Director Dan Leonard said a lot more study is needed on a Buffalo train station.

"It's really the business perspective. It's not in terms of looking at a train station and looking at a particular infrastructure project," said Leonard. "We're not making a case, yet because we're still, as Tom talked about, we're pretty early. We're talking about, 'Okay, we've got a problem which we've known about for years, but now we've got a pretty immediate problem.'"

Bruce Becker, National Association of Rail Passengers Vice President for Operations and longtime President of the Empire State Passengers Association, says Central Terminal would be an even more complex project than the station in Niagara Falls.

Central Terminal
Credit Central Terminal
Buffalo's Central Terminal

"We all know the topic of Buffalo Central Terminal is on the table and needs to be fully explored, but certainly I think realists would agree that that means in conjunction with redevelopment of that landmark," said Becker. "A new train station cannot be that sole redevelopment. It needs an overall project because that's a huge undertaking."

Becker says repairing the Exchange Street Station is complicated because it is not in a great location and is not handicapped accessible. There also are the issues of the building, the platform and the tracks all having different ownerships.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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