Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 1, 2013

Federal authorities sign off on Falls train station plans, work could begin in the fall

By Justin Sondel justin.sondel@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The last red tape for the final phase of the Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center has been cleared and the city will soon go out to bid for the construction. Work could begin as soon as the fall.

The Federal Rail Authority and the Federal Highway Authority have both signed off on a plan for the construction phase of the project, the last thing needed before soliciting bids, the city’s chief planner Thomas DeSantis explained.

‘We probably will be back in front of council in September asking them to award the bid,” he said.

The job — estimated at a cost of $26 million of the $44 million project total — will largely be funded by a $16.5 million federal transportation grant and $6 million in state Department of Transportation money.

The city will be responsible for a $3.2 million local match for the final phase.

DeSantis said that various state and federally governmentally agencies have spent months reviewing the project plans.

“There was a lot of paperwork that had to go back and forth,” he said.

Barring any unforeseen complications contractors should be able to begin the 2-year project this fall, DeSantis said.

Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration and many members of the community have put in hard work toward making the project a reality in recent years.

“It’s been a long haul,” Dyster said. “Getting to the point where you can count the remaining steps before beginning construction is very exciting, very gratifying.”

With the project labor agreement in place that guarantees a minimum of 50 percent local labor will be used by any company that wins the bid this is a good day for labor unions and tradesman in Western New York, Dyster said.

“I know the people in the building trades and labor unions are very excited about the project starting this year,” the mayor said.

And with the arrival of withheld casino revenues imminent — a result of the resolution of the gaming compact dispute between the Seneca Nation of Indians and New York state — the city will be able to use those to pay for the local match on the project as was originally planned, Dyster said.

This project will pay dividends far into the city’s future as the state and federal governments continue to invest in rail, he added.

“Eventually we’re going to be situated in a very sweet spot as the border crossing station for the high-speed rail line that will run from New York City to Toronto,” Dyster said.

Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian said he will be seeking clarification on some aspects of the project before making any decisions on whether to approve funding.

“There are still a lot of questions to be asked,” he said.

Choolokian said he has not been approached by the administration with plans regarding the project since the casino dispute had been resolved.

“We’ll see what they bring us and we’ll take it from there,” Choolokian said. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time.”

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257