'Amtrak Joe' looks good for cross-border travel between Niagara Falls and Toronto

Apr 13, 2021

Before COVID, every day an Amtrak passenger train went through Niagara Falls, N.Y. on the way to Toronto and another Amtrak train came from Toronto on the way to New York City. Falls Mayor Robert Restaino wants that service to return as soon as possible, and with more trains eventually added.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) has long been an exponent of greater ties across the border between Western New York and Southern Ontario, saying it’s good for both. He and Restaino talked Monday about what the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill might do to make the service better and faster.

Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino (l) and Rep. Brian Higgins speak in front of the Niagara Falls, NY Amtrak station Monday.
Credit Office of Brian Higgins

"One of the priorities that Amtrak has is service between Buffalo and Niagara Falls and Toronto," Higgins said. "Toronto is an international city, cultural and financial capital of Canada, and having direct access through Ontario is good for the economy of Western New York. It’s good for the economy of Ontario, as well."

The Biden Administration, in its American Jobs Plan, is proposing to spend $80 billion on passenger rail projects. Restaino said he and Higgins are pushing the plan now, before the bill is even passed, to make clear how important the train service is.

"We wanted to make sure that on this side of the border we’re making it very clear that we think that there should be a priority and that our government, our federal government, should approach it that way," he said, "and in their conversations with the Canadian government to stress the need that this corridor is a critical corridor that should get some pretty mmediate attention."

One of the things that would make this project attractive if the Biden bill passes is that tracks, stations, border-crossing facilities and existing pre-COVID service exist, so trains could start up fast. Ontario is planning to expand its summer train service to Niagara Falls, ON to year-round.

"The ability to make transportation easy between Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Toronto certainly improves this market as a potential landing spot for even other businesses because it’s easy to transmit people and product as a result of the rail improvement," Restaino said.

Amtrak's 2035 vision for expansion.
Credit Amtrak