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Changes being made to NFTA's proposed Metro Rail extension

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority

Even as the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority was conducting an environmental impact study on the proposed northward extension of the Metro Rail, it has continued to tinker with the plan.

There have been some major changes in the plan in recent years, including putting much less of of the extension underground, substantially lowering the cost. New changes in the draft environmental study include a bridge carrying the line over Maple and Sweet Home.

Consultant Scott Siebert says other changes will affect traffic.

"We're repurposing Niagara Falls Boulevard. We're going to provide one travel lane in each direction, but we're also providing an eight-foot shoulder on each side," Siebert said. "So that if a delivery truck, a garbage truck, a mail truck, whatever, is traveling up Niagara Falls Boulevard, there's ample space for them to pull off, out of the flow of traffic, as well as if an emergency response vehicle is heading down Niagara Falls Boulevard."

Some of the speakers at a public hearing in The Screening Room Wednesday supported the plan, including one saying it would be good for global climate change since the Metro Rail uses hydropower from Niagara Falls to run the system and not fossil fuels.

Credit Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority

David Stinner operates two businesses along the boulevard.

"When I travel to other cities, the size of Buffalo and larger, I see a lot of development that happens around rail stations," Stinner said. "I don't see how this can be a bad thing. I think that the development that happens around rail stations is actually quite exciting."

The environmental report says the project would require taking all or some of 163 properties with much of that widening the boulevard. "I'm not so sure" was the comment from Denise Horbowicz.

"There's talk about acquisitions. My particular property as was shown on one of these, kind of on a diagonal from Longmeadow's ending," she said. "They already took 12 feet in the front of my house, put this new sidewalk line in, moved the fire hydrant, did all the sewer work back in the day and now they're talking about more acquisitions, which will put those freaking trains right in my front door."

There are copies of the study in libraries and town halls, and there is time to file written responses. The goal is to have the plan look at everything from noise to traffic finalized by the summer. The next stage would be looking for cash to start the actual design.

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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