NFTA approves study for metro-rail extension to North Campus

The study is the latest development for a train expected in at least 15 years


The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority board approved a $4.8 million study Thursday to extend metro rail service to UB’s North Campus. The study, expected to take between two and three years to complete, will assess the environmental impacts of expanding the metro-rail north to UB and south into the Cobblestone District, according to WBFO.

The proposed route would run underground from University Station to near Bailey Avenue and Eggert Road, through to Niagara Falls Boulevard to Maple Avenue, then to Sweet Home and through the campus to Audubon.

The project will be funded by NYS as part of Buffalo Billion, a project led by Governor Andrew Cuomo to invest $1 billion in the WNY area. The rail extension itself is projected to take a decade, putting the prospect of new trains at least 15 years out.

Representative Brian Higgins expressed concern over funding the project. He said the NFTA should focus instead on improving current quality and service of the metro rail. He also expressed doubts that Washington D.C. will help fund the eventual extension, which experts estimate could cost up to $1.2 billion.

Higgins has said he doesn’t think the fiscal climate in D.C. looks good for mass transit projects at the moment. A more reasonable goal would be to improve current services, given the possible dearth of federal support and an increasing need to accommodate a burgeoning downtown medical corridor, Higgins said. He supports a planned restoration of the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad terminal and its incorporation into the light rail system.

NFTA Executive Director Kimberly Minkel said expanding the Metro Rail is projected to double the number of riders on the system, which would lead to a reduction in traffic congestion and fewer emissions.

She also said the expansion would have an estimated $1.7 billion economic impact and raise property values by about $300 million in the area around the proposed rail line, according to WIVB.

The approved consultant is the Montreal-based engineering firm WSP, which has worked on expansions of the New York and Los Angeles transit systems, One World Trade Center and the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to its website.

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at