Metro Rail extension is far down the road possibility

Apr 24, 2017

Planning for an extension of the Metro Rail line into Amherst is going to be on the drawing board for a long, long time. It will be years before the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority can ask for construction money.

Speaking to a transportation forum last week, NFTA transportation planner Rachel Maloney Joyner suggested riders might start boarding in 2027 - that is, if Washington continues to put money into public transportation.

Extension of the Metro Rail line requires years of planning, with a Transit Oriented Development study underway now and the Environmental Impact Study to start in the summer. Joyner said the project would start from the tunnel that runs under the University Station to behind Northtown Plaza in Amherst.

"From Eggert, at the portal, we'll take a right onto Niagara Falls Boulevard," Joyner said. "We'll take another right onto Maple Road, a left onto Sweet Home, a right onto Rensch where we will enter into UB North Campus and that alignment on campus will follow just south of the academic spine. We'll then continue on to the Ellicott dormitory complex."

The plan includes a second phase from the University at Buffalo, essentially to Crosspoint Business Park. Planners are trying to lock down the final route specifics. Joyner said one-fifth of the area's current jobs are along the proposed route from downtown Buffalo's Canalside to UB's North Campus.

"That will double the number of individuals living and working in this corridor, which is pretty significant because that significantly decreases their transportation costs," she said. "It will help us provide regional competitiveness, increased transit capacity, connectivity, sustainability, reliability. We really think that it can be the engine behind economic development."

Joyner said the environmental impact planning will take at least 18 months, paid for with $5 million state dollars before the first big ask of Washington for final planning and engineering money to go with a lot more state money. The major ask of Washington is perhaps $600 million in federal dollars toward an overall cost estimate over $1 billion.

Past lessons are that all of this will take many years, even if federal money is available.