AMHERST, N.Y. — Ever since the Metro-Rail's 1980's debut, there's been the idea of extending the light rail system north into Amherst and the UB North campus.
Community buy-in and funding obstacles de-railed it for decades. But in recent years there's been an effort to move it forward.
A public comment session held Tuesday evening on the proposed seven-mile long rail route from university station at UB South up to the 990 area. Part of the route would be underground and part of it would go along Niagara Falls Boulevard and Maple Road. There would be nine new stations including park and ride options.
One resident pointed out, "I'd like to see where the rail will actually come aboveground on Niagara Falls Boulevard...what would be the handicapped access at the train stations."
Another said, "I think it might work...but there's a lot of questions I have about parking spaces."
The rail line's economic and environmental impacts along with traffic on shared routes must be factored in. Even noise and vibration from passing trains must be considered along with the real need for an extension.
Scott Sibert, a consultant for the project says, "It's the growth rates of both population and employment on the corridor and in the region. That helps identify and allows us to really develop the future ridership of the expansion project."
There is also the projected $1 billion cost.
The NFTA figures half will come from a highly competitive federal infrastructure fund. The rest would come from the state, local, and other sources.
2 On Your Side asked NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel if they can secure both federal funding and that other match to make this project work?
"You know I think we score very well. When we take a look at...when we had done the analysis earlier on, we saw the ridership on the light rail system double...that's a significant increase," said Minkel.
This is a 10-year process for this potential expansion project. The NFTA will be taking public comments through March 10. You can comment at www.NFTAMetroRailExpansion.com