Higgins supports reuse of historic DL&W Terminal as multi-modal transportation destination

Jan 25, 2016

Buffalo’s renaissance has seen success, in part, because the city has learned to embrace its unique characteristics and remake them to meet current and future demands. So far, it’s been done well on the downtown waterfront, with one exception – the DL&W Terminal.

Nestled between the bustle of Canalside, Harborcenter, and South Buffalo attractions like Riverworks, the DL&W Terminal is home to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s Metro Rail storage and maintenance facility.

View of DL&W complex from across the Buffalo River. Two passenger buildings are at center, with train shed extending toward right. The train shed is all that remains of the original terminal, now used as the NFTA's storage and maintenance facility for the Metro Rail. The Skyway shows at top left, with Naval Park construction below.
Credit Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad / Library of Congress

“The DL&W Terminal site sits as a broken link in the chain that connects all these growing areas,” said Congressman Brian Higgins.

The terminal, built in 1917 has “a grand presence,” in Higgins’ view. It once served as a center for rail passengers, postal delivery, and great lakes shipments.

“Yet today, it sits as a shell – primarily vacant and completely inaccessible to the public,” said Higgins.

Congressman Brian Higgins unveils plans to extend the NFTA Metro Rail line in front of the DL&W Terminal
Credit Office of Congressman Brian Higgins

On Friday, Higgins unveiled two plans by the NFTA to extend the southern end of the Metro Rail. Alternative A would create a new stop outside on South Park Avenue. Alternative B would see DL&W Terminal, itself, become a station. It’s an option Higgins said gives the community the best opportunity moving forward.

“The prospect of reawakening this area with new activity holds incredible potential,” Higgins said.

Higgins supports Alternative B – known as the Buffalo River plan, but said it’s not just about making another stop on the Metro Rail. He said the terminal would become another downtown destination with a pedestrian bridge to First Niagara Center, public access the Riverwalk, and the option for future extensions. It would also seek to make use of the approximately 80,000 square foot upper level of the terminal.

“Using a transit-oriented development approach, the NFTA’s Buffalo River plan capitalizes on public infrastructure investments to leverage additional private sector interest and to create a sense of place and connectivity to the city,” Higgins explained.

The terminal would be turned into what is known as a multi-modal site.

A rendering displays the exterior of the DL&W Terminal as it might look in the Buffalo River plan
Credit Office of Congressman Brian Higgins

“Imagine vehicular, rail, bicycle, pedestrian and nautical traffic side by side, right here at the DL&W,” Higgins said. “That is the type of multi-modal urban planning that gets the attention of state and federal departments responsible for transportation funding and one that continues momentum for our community.”

Higgins said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is encouraging mayors of major cities to present options like the Buffalo River plan as drivers of urban development.

The project would cost $43 million and Higgins said he is going to push aggressively to make as much as 80 percent of funding from the federal Department of Transportation become a reality. It would require a state and local match of the remaining 20 percent.

Community input is being sought by the NFTA before they apply for funding. They forecast that the project could be completed within the next three to four years.