Late on the evening of Feb. 17, the last passengers will use Metro Rail’s Theater Station.
The station is being torn down so that vehicle traffic can return to Main Street.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials announced the move Thursday, with demolition slated to begin March 4, after crews salvage as much as possible from the inbound and outbound structures.
Then this summer, road construction will begin on the 600 block of Main Street.
A significant space will be carved into the sidewalk area at Shea’s Performing Arts Center to allow theater patrons to be picked up and dropped off.
Those accustomed to using the Theater Station will then use the Fountain Plaza Station, 546 feet to the south.
Other stations along the surface portion of Metro Rail will be modified as part of the project, said Michael Bykowski, NFTA director of engineering.
In some instances, covered waiting areas will be reduced, he said.
He noted, however, that the City of Buffalo – lead agency on the project – has not yet submitted final design plans to the NFTA, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with federal accessibility regulations. Officials remain hopeful that the new designs will be “grandfathered” with regard to accessibility and that extensive modifications beyond current handicapped ramps will not be necessary, he said.
Rider alerts are already posted aboard Metro trains and on the authority’s website, providing details of the project, according to Thomas George, NFTA director of surface transportation. About 1,200 riders per day now use Theater Station, while about 2,000 use Fountain Plaza Station.
George also asked the board of commissioners to authorize continued use of tokens as payment on Metro Bus and Rail even though no tokens have been sold to the general public since 2010. He said about 65,000 are still provided on a monthly basis, however, to social service agencies for distribution to their clients for various reasons.
He asked that they continue to be used until Metro switches to a new electronic fare collection system in 2015.
“We felt it would be advantageous for to us to keep tokens in play during this interim period,” he said. “Tokens are operating effectively, and it’s a system that’s been in place for 60 years.”
In other developments, Buffalo Niagara International Airport officials have set Feb. 15 as a target date for a new system allowing passengers to reserve a covered parking spot close to the terminal for a $3 daily surcharge.
“We’ve received feedback from passengers who want a reservation system,” said William R. Vanecek, NFTA director of aviation. “We’re talking about 40 to 60 spaces initially, completely covered from the weather and with easy access.”
Vanecek said other airports have successfully implemented the same idea, with little risk for the authority associated with trying it at Buffalo.
He explained that passengers can access the reservation system at nfta.com and indicate the length of their stay. They will then be asked to print out their reservation form and display it on the dashboard of their vehicle, while parking officials monitor for overstays.
The board of commissioners also authorized staff to begin acquiring 3.6 acres adjacent to the Kensington Expressway and Buell Avenue in Cheektowaga near the airport. The property will eventually partially host a “flyover” ramp that will provide direct access to the airport from the expressway without crossing Genesee Street.
The vacant parcel is now owned by the state Department of Transportation, which has offered to convey it to the NFTA at no cost after deeming it surplus. Plans for the ramp lie several years in the future, but the project has been discussed for decades as a potential improvement.