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Light rail expansion plan moves forward

September 17, 2019


GREGOREK IS SCHEDULED TO BE SENTENCED IN JUNE. NEW TONIGHT— EXPANDING THE N-F-T-A’S LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM TO AMHERST IS MOVING FORWARD. THE N-F-T-A’S BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS HAS GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT TO AN ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW THAT WILL COST ALMOST 5 MILLION DOLLARS. AS LUKE MORETTI TELLS US— THAT MONEY WILL COME FROM THE STATE’S BUFFALO BILLION 2 INITIATIVE.. THE PLAN CALLS FOR EXPANDING THE LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM FROM THE EXISTING UNIVERSITY STATION IN BUFFALO ONTO UB’S NORTH CAMPUS IN AMHERST, HITTING POINTS IN BETWEEN. (( KIMBERLEY MINKEL NFTA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: THIS ISN’T SOMETHING THAT WE’RE PUSHING ON THE COMMUNITY. AS WE GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS, IF THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THE COMMUNITY DOESN’T WANT, WE’LL PULL BACK ON, BUT I DO THINK WE NEED TO ADVANCE IT. )) BUT NOT EVERYONE’S ONBOARD… CONGRESSMAN BRIAN HIGGINS WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE NFTA SHIFT ITS FOCUS TO IMPROVING THE SYSTEM DOWNTOWN. (( REP. BRIAN HIGGINS (D) BUFFALO: PROVIDING A STATE OF THE ART WITH NEW CARS AND NEW TRACK BED AND AN ATTRACTIVE CORRIDOR BETWEEN CANALSIDE AND THE BUFFALO NIAGARA MEDICAL CAMPUS; IT WLL GIVE NEW PURPOSE TO , I THINK, A RAIL SYSTEM THAT’S BEEN LOOKING FOR A PURPOSE FOR 40 YEARS. )) NFTA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR KIMBERLEY MINKEL SAYS THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW WILL ALSO LOOK AT THE EXISTING SYSTEM. SHE EXPECTS IT WILL TAKE BETWEEN 24 AND 30 MONTHS… AND THAT THE NEXT PHASE, PROJECT DEVELOPMENT, WOULD BE ANOTHER YEAR AFTER THAT.. THE COST OF THE PROJECT BASED ON EARLY ESTIMATES… AROUND 1.2 BILLION DOLLARS… THE BIG QUESTION…WILL THE MONEY, ESPECIALLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S END, BE THERE WHEN IT COMES TIME TO BUILD… (( KIMBERLEY MINKEL: BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL, AND THAT’S A COUPLE OF YEARS AWAY , I THINK IT’S WISE TO POSITION OURSELF. GET THIS DONE SO THAT IF THE MONEY BECOMES AVAILABLE WE CAN MOVE FORWARD ON THE PROJECT. )) BUT IF THE NFTA MOVES ON ANYTHING, HIGGINS BELIEVES IT SHOULD BE IMPROVING THE LIGHT RAIL EXPERIENCE DOWNTOWN, INSTEAD OF THE AMHERST EXTENSION. (( BRIAN HIGGINS: THIS ISN’T THREATENING TO ANYBODY. THIS IS A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO SUSTAINING THE GREAT MOMENTUM THAT WE HAVE IN DOWNTOWN BUFFALO. IF SOMEBODY’S GOT A BETTER IDEA, ADVANCE IT. )) THE NFTA’S KIMBERLEY MINKEL SAYS SHE PLANS TO REACH OUT TO CONGRESSMAN HIGGINS ABOUT HIS CONCERNS… AND REASSURE HIM THAT THE EXISTING STATIONS WILL BE LOOKED AT TO SEE IF THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR

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