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Four locations remain under consideration for a new train station in Buffalo.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, wants the new station at the Central Terminal, an abandoned art deco marvel 2.5 miles east of downtown Buffalo. The Central Terminal was Buffalo’s main passenger station for 50 years until Amtrak pulled out in 1979. Higgins says the downtown Canalside location is a bad place for a train station.
"While I have argued here that Central Terminal is actually preferable from an affordability standpoint to the Canalside options, I have not wavered in my view that this important decision should not be reduced to a matter of mere dollars-and-cents," Higgins said. "The Central Terminal alternative meets those two objectives in a way that Canalside never can."
Higgins has referred to two of the downtown options as Canalside locations in press releases on his website.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s staff says Higgins is misleading the committee and the public by saying two of the four proposed locations are at Canalside.
"We have been trying to clarify all along that the sites we are looking at now are not at Canalside," Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told The Buffalo News. "They are all downtown."
So, who’s right? Where exactly are the options for a new train station?
Downtown vs. Canalside
Look at a map, and the Canalside and downtown sites are only a block or two apart on the railroad tracks -- hardly far enough to warrant such a dispute. Higgins says he uses definitions from a consultant’s report, which identified Canalside East and Canalside West as two possible locations.
"The report made public by the consultants on March 21 identifies two of the three locations as Canalside East and Canalside West," Higgins said in a statement.
The Canalside West location in the report is where the Memorial Auditorium once stood. That option now appears to be off the table after an engineer determined it would be difficult to accommodate the city’s bus service at the location.
The three remaining downtown options are within a few blocks of the old Aud site but are generally considered beyond the boundaries of Canalside:
• The site of the current station on Exchange Street, less than a quarter mile off Washington Street downtown. The footprint would have another entrance at Washington Street.
• Closer to Washington Street on Exchange Street. A second entry would be built between Washington Street and Main Street, across the light rail tracks from the old Aud site.
• By the on-ramp to the I-190, across from the Courtyard Marriott. The consultants' report labeled this option Canalside East. It would be on the other side of the tracks from where the current Exchange Street station and closer to Washington Street. Part of that location is now a parking lot.
Behind the spat
Higgins’ aides argue that the downtown locations would cut down on parking options for people who want to visit downtown Buffalo. That would hurt businesses and restaurants in a district where the state has spent millions to redevelop.
Tim Tielman, who wants to preserve the Central Terminal but also supports a downtown train station, disputes that.
"The congressman keeps on reiterating that if a train station goes down there it will wreak havoc with things going on at Canalside," Tielman said. "No. 1, I’d like to indicate that the trains are already there.
"The entire purpose of any urban development is to attract people and, of course, the most efficient way to attract people is through public transit," said Tielman, executive director of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo.
Higgins said in press releases on his website and in a memo to the Train Station Site Selection Committee that at least two options for a new train station in Buffalo are at Canalside. Imprecision in the consultant’s report added to the confusion because only one of the two possible sites labeled as "Canalside" locations in the report is actually within Canalside boundaries.
None of the options now being considered is at Canalside. Two of the options have entries across the street from Canalside to give passengers easier access to the city’s public transit system. That’s close to Canalside, but not in the district.
Higgins’ claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
Email and phone conversation with Rep. Brian Higgins’ staff
Phone conversation with Michael DeGeorge from Mayor Byron Brown’s office
Phone conversation with Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consulting firm hired by the city
"Two downtown sites are focus for new train station," April 4, 2017, The Buffalo News
"Prospects dim for Canalside train station site," March 30, 2017, The Buffalo News
"Higgins: Buffalo is about to make 'big, big mistake' backing Canalside for train station," March 6, 2017, The Buffalo News
"State officials, consultant take issue with Higgins over Central Terminal," April 1, 2017, The Buffalo News
"Public asked for input on new train station site," March 21, 2017, WBFO
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