For various reasons, from space and existing infrastructure to aesthetics to economic development opportunities, Congressman Brian Higgins is again stating that Buffalo's best choice for a future Amtrak station is the site of its former rail station, the Central Terminal.
Higgins' local congressional office is located on the sixth floor of the Larkin Building. From a neighboring conference room, one can see the Central Terminal. The landmark's proximity to downtown, and its role as a landmark in a once vibrant East Side neighborhood, is just one of the many reasons Higgins prefers the Central Terminal as a future Amtrak station.
"This will be a catalyst for the redevelopment of Polonia," Higgins said about the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, once dominated by residents of Polish descent. "Polonia will rise again and it will inject new viability into the Broadway Market, into the Broadway-Fillmore area generally."
Higgins, along with Buffalo Common Councilmember and Broadway-Fillmore resident David Franczyk, has twice toured the Central Terminal with other elected officials to grow support for his case to reopen passenger trains to the site. The Central Terminal last welcomed passengers in 1979. Amtrak now has stations on Exchange Street near Canalside and in Depew.
Some favor building a new station in Canalside but Higgins says it would be subject to gridlock issues, as witnessed in that neighborhood this summer when tourists, baseball games, concerts and other tourist attractions resulted in long traffic backups. The Central Terminal neighborhood, he argues, has the space to accommodate people and serve as not only an Amtrak station but also a new bus terminal and possibly a light rail stop.
"That facility, the Central Terminal, was built for that kind of activity," he said.
He also points out existing rail infrastructure, including connections to Cleveland and Chicago, that do not exist at the current Buffalo station.
New York State has already earmarked $25 million for a new Buffalo train station but the money is not scheduled to be released until 2019. In October, Governor Andrew Cuomo upped the ante by offering one million dollars to pay for a consultant if Buffalo could organize a task force and determine a train station site in six months.
Higgins says that by acting now, Buffalo puts itself in good position to perhaps receive additional funds through a federal match grant. When asked if a change in presidential administrations from Barack Obama to Donald Trump might set Buffalo back, Higgins suggested the contrary.
"The President-Elect has talked about a major transportation infrastructure initiative that will be the largest since the New Deal in America," he said. "We can position the Central Terminal to receive significant federal funding."
He also dismissed the notion that the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood is "unsafe." He says it's inactive, but to make the neighborhood seem safe again, one must make it active again.