On Thursday, a room in UB's Allen Hall was filled with maps, renderings, designs and more information on how Metro Rail might be extended beyond the UB South Campus.
When Metro Rail was originally planned, it was supposed to extend to UB's North Campus. When the money ran out, the line was truncated to 6.4 miles, ending at the South Campus.
Now, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has hired a consulting firm, AECOM, to study options for an extension of service to the North Campus and beyond, to the Crosspointe Business Park in northern Amherst.
AECOM project manager Sheldon Fialkoff says the study reflects changes in regional plans.
"They see it growing and it falls to what we have developed as the purpose and need of this study, which is to link activity centers. Clearly, the UB campuses are one of those centers. But there are commercial centers in addition to that we have corporate centers that are developing, not just at Crosspointe but back down in the center city," Fialkoff said.
Fialkoff says that in addition to studying an extension of the existing rail line, they will consider establishing a special bus system. He says the NFTA told him that they are "looking at what's best for everybody."
Whether through bus or rail, the NFTA wants to connect more of the region to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to ease pressure on its parking lots. An extension of the line toward Larkinville is also being considered, though that process is nowhere near as far along as the Amherst extension study.
Fialkoff says a decision on the preferred route through Amherst is likely by the end of the year, but the project would still face about three years of design and environmental studies before requests could be made for federal funding.