BUFFALO, N.Y. - With an April deadline approaching for his committee to make a recommendation, Mayor Byron Brown said Tuesday he's still open to either Canalside or the Central Terminal as the location for Buffalo's new Amtrak train station.
Mayor Brown, who addressed reporters before an event at Bak USA on Michigan Avenue, said the committee met for three and a half hours last week, at which point it decided to eliminate Larkinville from contention for the new train station. Brown was not ready to commit to either Canalside or the Central Terminal, even though Congressman Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) told 2 On Your Side on Tuesday that a train station "just doesn't fit" at Canalside.
Instead, Brown said the committee is keeping its options open as it decides how -- and where -- to spend the $25 million in state money earmarked for a new Amtrak station. The current location on Exchange Street on downtown Buffalo is universally considered too outdated.
"This should not be a decision based on emotion, but based on fact, based on information," Brown said. "And that's what we plan on doing as a committee."
Higgins, on the other hand, argued that Canalside must be eliminated from the conversation. Proponents of a Canalside station may point to the bustling waterfront activity and tourist attractions, but Higgins said that's actually a deterrent to the mission of an Amtrak station.
"I'm concerned about it," Higgins said. "It's not water enhanced, it's not water dependent... just because Canalside is a popular destination doesn't mean you just throw everything in there, including a train station."
Higgins also argued that a Canalside station would be unable to connect west to places like Chicago or Cleveland, essentially cutting off service to the majority of the United States by his estimation.
Instead, Higgins strongly endorsed the Central Terminal as his preferred location for a new Amtrak station, particularly because a Canadian developer is already looking at mixed-use development along with a potential train station. Higgins pointed out that a similar train station in Washington, D.C., was able to capitalize on mixed-use development with restaurants, shops and commercial development.
Passenger trains haven't run through the Central Terminal since 1979, but Higgins said revitalizing the train station would be a major victory for the Broadway-Fillmore area.
"Buffalo's renaissance doesn't mean anything unless it finds its way into the forgotten neighborhoods of Buffalo," Higgins said. "And the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood, 30 years ago, was a vibrant, active place. And it just isn't anymore. You just can't ignore it."
Several other elected officials at the state and local level have endorsed the Central Terminal as well.
Although Brown would not commit to either location, he said he'd like to see the new station serve as a multi-modal facility with busses, cabs, bicycles and eventually ride-sharing companies if the state legislature votes to allow expansion outside of New York City this year.
Gov. Cuomo, who also pledged $1 million for a study of the locations, has asked for a recommendation from the committee by next month.
"The charge from the governor to all of the committee, is to be open, to look at the data, to let the information drive the process," Brown said, "and drive the decision that we make."