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Preservationist backs Washington Street for new Amtrak station

With a state-appointed committee due to decide Thursday where a new city passenger train station should be located, a highly visible preservationist is arguing the new station should be in downtown Buffalo on Washington Street just south of Exchange Street.


Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
Amtrak's downtown Buffalo train station on Exchange Street

Passenger trains have been rolling along Exchange Street since before the Civil War. The decrepit condition of the current Amtrak station there precipitated a study of what to do, fueled by $1 million from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

After the first part of the study, the choice sites have come down to the historic Old Central Terminal and somewhere downtown around the current station, using the current rail line between New York City and Toronto. Tielman says it is the best location for tourism and for business, arriving in an area surrounded by hotels and opportunities like Canalside.

"If you think about the station in tandem, particularly Exchange Street, and if you think of how companies and bureaucracies and everything work, it's 'let's do the least effort thing' and, in this case, the least effort thing is restore, fix the Exchange Street Station, which needs it," says Tielman. "I mean, the station's falling down."

The collapse of the ceiling in the current Amtrak station precipitated the governor to appoint Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to put together a committee to pick a new site.

Credit WBFO File Photo
Preservationist Tim Tielman supports revitalization of the East Side's old Central Terminal, but not as Amtrak's new passenger station.

Tielman is a long-time supporter of the Central Terminal, but argues there are other ways to revive the East Side landmark. He says Exchange Street would join Amtrak, Metro Bus, Metro Rail and intercity bus companies like Greyhound and Trailways.

"The solution is to spend as little money as possible and to make it as convenient for as many people as possible and that would be putting a new station building along the old, existing tracks so the building would face Washington Street," says Tielman. "It would use the tracks Amtrak now uses to go in and out of Buffalo."

Tielman says centrally located stations like that are the wave of the present and the future.

"Every city you go to that really has a grip on its transportation issues is a dynamic place to visit," he says. "Think about where you may travel in the United States or in Europe, you get off the train and right outside the front door, there's your tram system, there's your bus system, whatever. It's convenient and it's all intermodal."

Tielman believes the Depew station that serves most Amtrak passengers in the region works as it is and serves passengers to and from Chicago.

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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