Albany is putting a new Amtrak Exchange Street Station for Buffalo on a fast track, with work slated to start late this year.
Buffalo's current station is past its "sell by" date. Perhaps 70 years old, its problems became especially apparent last year when the ceiling started to fall down because of a leaking roof.
"We're actually putting passengers on the train in Niagara Falls and sending them Buffalo and when they get to the existing station, it's embarrassing," said Patrick Whalen, director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute. "This would be a huge upgrade. It's not fancy, but it's good enough, in my opinion, to at least erase the embarrassment."
The New York State Department of Transportation unveiled the plan for the new station Monday at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum. Some $20 million will go for rail track work, site work and a station that looks like new stations in Rochester and Schenectady. Architect Kelly Freeman says the goal is something of a throwback to the old New York Central network of stations.
"We're evoking the sort of feeling and grandeur of a traditional station, but with modern amenities," Freeman said, "all the accessibility, all of the technology you would want, with the information displays, the variable message, everything current."
The plan calls for completion in the summer of 2020. The new building will be highly visible on Exchange Street, directly connected to the city's Metro Rail system and somewhat less shadowed by the Niagara section of the Thruway than the present station.
It will have Metro Bus, Greyhound and Trailways bus service and, down the line, other inter-city buses to eventually have this as their station as well.
Preservationist Tim Tielman originally favored moving operations to Buffalo's Central Terminal, then surprised everyone in April of last year when he backed a downtown location, saying there were other ways to restore the Central Terminal. Even still, Tielman said the plan discussed Monday will not go over well with a lot of people.
"The citizens will be very disappointed if this project comes to pass the way it's being shown here," Tielman said, "because the Thruway, again, will dominate train travel and bus travel and those using buses and trains will, again, have their second-class citizenship maintained."