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Metro Rail Extension Gains Ground

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The extension of Metro Rail to the Amherst is another step closer. Empire State Development and the NFTA Board of Commissioners have announced that they have awarded the environmental review and associated engineering design service contract to the Buffalo office of WSP Inc., one of the world’s largest engineering firms, for Phase I in the Amherst Metro Rail Extension. The work is under the financial umbrella of the Buffalo Billion II program.

“This is an important step in the second phase of the Buffalo Billion that will ultimately connect communities as well as Buffalo Billion investments, and provide significant economic progress through rail expansion,” said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership we’re now making critical investments in projects like the light rail which will improve the overall reliability and connectivity of transportation services, as well as the upcoming DL&W station that will further enhance the region’s quality of life.”

“This is a historic and exciting day for the NFTA,” said NFTA Executive Director Kimberley Minkel. “We are grateful to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for his support and vision for this transformational project.”

On January 9, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $5 million in funding would be made available under the Buffalo Billion II program to complete the environmental review for the light rail extension into Amherst.

After completing a Transit Options Amherst-Buffalo Alternatives Analysis (AA) in 2017 (see here) that designated a Niagara Falls Boulevard alignment, the NFTA began the environmental review and associated engineering design service contract process. Moving forward, the NFTA and the Buffalo office of WSP Inc. will take the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), and implement an environmental review process that includes a preliminary design focusing on the determined route: an extension from the existing terminus at University Station underground along Bailey Avenue to a portal near Eggert Road. It would then travel at grade along Niagara Falls Boulevard turning onto Maple Road then to Sweet Home Road, onto UB North Campus to Audubon Parkway where it would terminate near the I-990.

“This feasibility study will give us some critical information on the most reasonable path for the light rail expansion,” said Amherst Chamber of Commerce President/CEO A.J. Baynes. “Providing improved access to the future redevelopment of Niagara Falls Boulevard and the University at Buffalo will only continue our growth and prosperity in the region.”

“Redefining and preparing our communities to meet demands of future residents requires investment in transit and connectivity,” said Town of Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa. “Enhanced transit is important to the future of the Town of Amherst, the Town of Tonawanda, and the future of Western New York. Enhanced transit will provide access to jobs and workforce mobility, link regional educational institutions, and support the transformation of Niagara Falls Boulevard.”

The scope of the work that will be done by WSP, Inc. includes refinement of the Locally Preferred Alignment (LPA) including;

  • Re-evaluating the LPA alignment versus entering Niagara Falls Boulevard earlier
  • Re-evaluating median running versus side running or another alignment
  • Additional storage and maintenance facilities
  • Conduct Public Outreach and Agency Coordination (including local, state and federal agencies)
  • Develop NEPA scoping packet
  • Conduct NEPA and follow the required federal guidance to complete DEIS and FEIS
  • Conduct conceptual design of the LPA (description above)
  • Conduct a traffic impact study and refine STOPS modeling with the addition of special market trips
  • Develop operations plans for extending LRT

Lead image: NFTA rendering of UB North Campus station (Empire State Development)

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

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