Author: Hank Olejniczak
The government of Ontario has committed to bringing daily commuter rail utilizing the Go Trains to connect Toronto and Niagara Falls by 2022. Buffalo and Western New York has a once in a lifetime opportunity if local leadership steps forward and acknowledges the potential benefits that now presents itself.
The potential this offers has already spurred a significant increase in construction in the Niagara region of Ontario.
Establishing a commuter line using the existing Amtrak right of way that runs along the Niagara River and through Downtown Buffalo to a restored Central Terminal would offer unlimited opportunities for Buffalo.
Including the Terminal in this proposal would add the dimension of jump starting the rebirth of the East Side along with bringing travelers from Ontario within shuttle distance to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and surrounding hotels with the option to use an existing rail corridor to connect directly to the airport.
In addition to the millions of tourists that could be easily brought Downtown, exposing Buffalo to “The Golden Horseshoe” – one of the largest population centers in the world – would have far reaching potential to boost the local economy.
Allowing safe and reliable access to the almost 10 million residents in the Horseshoe to Buffalo’s attractions and business opportunities should not be overlooked.
The potential realignment of businesses and families from large metropolitan areas because of the pandemic adds further weight to this idea. In addition stops at Larkinville, Exchange Street Station, Ralph Wilson Park, Rich Products, and The Outlet Mall would also benefit local commuters with a link to the Metro Rail. This would also help Roswell Park, M&T, Seneca One, the Buffalo Sabres, Statler Towers and other projects along the Metro right of way.
The major advantages of this proposal is that it uses an existing rail corridor with the much lower cost of adding a second track and smaller above ground station stops along with diesel powered Budd cars compared to light rail. It could also be completed in a much shorter time frame when compared to the future Metro extension to UB.
What this proposal is lacking is leadership from the business and political community. At the turn of the 20th Century, Buffalo was a city with no limits. I hope that can do attitude will emerge again in the New Buffalo.
Hank Olejniczak is a former board member of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, the Committee for the Williamsville Lehigh Valley Depot, and a current board member for the Medina Railroad Museum. He has been an advocate for the restoration of the Central Terminal and for expansion of high speed rail between Buffalo and New York City.