Empire State Development Announces NFTA Board of Commissioners Approved WSP Consultants for Environmental Review and Preliminary Design for Amherst Metro Rail Extension

Buffalo Billion milestone marks major move to connect communities and build on the region’s economic progress through rail expansion

February 22, 2018

Empire State Development today announced the NFTA Board of Commissioners 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. This is a major milestone in a visionary project under the Buffalo Billon 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 an 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.”

In 2017, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) completed the Transit Options Amherst-Buffalo Alternatives Analysis (AA) that recommended a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for extending the existing light rail system along the Niagara Falls Boulevard alignment. This alignment is generally defined as 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.  

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. The NFTA Board approved this LPA on January 26, 2017 and authorized staff to initiate the environmental review process, including preliminary design as the next step toward implementation of the project.

“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

More information about Buffalo Billion Phase II and the Light Rail Extension can be found here.

About Empire State Development
Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NEW YORK,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov  and www.esd.ny.gov.

About the NFTA
|The NFTA is a regional multi-modal transportation authority responsible for airport and surface transportation in Erie and Niagara counties. NFTA/NFTM businesses include a bus, rail and paratransit system, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the Niagara Falls International Airport. In 2016, a J.D. Power study ranked the Buffalo Niagara International Airport second highest in customer satisfaction for medium sized airports in North America.



Pamm Lent | [email protected] | (716) 846-8309
Helen Tederous | [email protected] | (716) 349-0001