NIAGARA FALLS – One of the city’s major development projects appeared to be back on track Monday, two weeks after the City Council halted funding for the initiative.
Funding approval for the $44 million International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center was denied by the Council recently because of questions over how the city would pay a consultant.
But after Senior Planner Thomas J. DeSantis told the Council on Monday the $268,000 would come from a federal grant, the Council majority said it would approve the funding at its next meeting if the city specified the source in writing.
“Nobody’s trying to stop the train station,” Council Chairman Sam F. Fruscione told Mayor Paul A. Dyster. “If you put [the source of the funds] down, you have our votes.”
The project is seen as a major component of Dyster’s downtown development agenda. The new Amtrak station would be located in the city’s North End, replacing an outdated station located far from the city’s tourism district.
The project would also include a federal border security office and an Underground Railroad interpretive center. It would also serve as a key stop in the emerging rail market, supporters say.
“This project is going to be an economic driver five, 10, 20 years down the road for a lot of reasons, primarily the tourism economy here in Niagara Falls,” Dyster said.
But the project has been hit by criticism from Dyster’s opponents, who question the wisdom of spending city money on a project outside of the tourism district.
The Council’s concerns about the project have grown as the city grapples with a $10 million budget gap which was created in part by $58 million in casino slot revenue payments withheld by the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Dyster also announced he would present the city budget – one month late – to the Council at 4 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers, City Hall, 745 Main St.