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NFTA says plans for federal infrastructure money include electric buses, more accessibility, repair backlog

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Plans for the federal infrastructure money coming to the NFTA include the replacement of aging buses with electric-powered units, beginning next spring.

Catching up on a repair backlog, improving accessibility, capital projects, and hiring more people are some of what the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority plans to do with the more than $156 million it’s getting from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The funding, announced by Senator Schumer Monday, is just one portion of an overall $11 billion that will be distributed among public transportation authorities across New York State.

The NFTA’s plans also include replacing aging buses and bringing in electric-powered buses to the Metro fleet. NFTA executive director Kimberley Minkel says separate state funding has already allowed them to begin the conversion to electric buses, but the federal funding will help them expand even further.

“We are working on converting our Cold Spring facility, electrifying that facility, so that we can charge buses,” she said. “Through funding we received through New York State and with the leadership of Governor Hochul, we also have purchased 10 electric battery buses that we expect to receive in the spring.”

It takes about a year for an electric bus to be built and then delivered, according to Minkel.

Ridership during the COVID pandemic was down but Minkel says one need that remained, and is growing, is transportation for people with disabilities. Increasing access is among the issues the NFTA hopes to address with this federal money.

The Buffalo-Niagara International Airport will receive $37.5 million from the NFTA’s allocation for improvements including ramps, taxiways, runways and other needs throughout the terminal. An estimated $7.5 million will be set aside for similar work at the Niagara Falls International Airport.

Minkel notes that the funding will come over a five-year period, which he considers more helpful to planning and projects.

“It was very difficult when the federal program would be year to year. It made it difficult to plan for capital improvements here in Western New York,” she said. “Given our four seasons, we're somewhat limited as to what construction can be done. So being able to plan over the next five years provides tremendous benefit, not only for our agency, but for other infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.