NFTA should pursue major rail expansion

Recently, The News ran a story about Erie County planning a four-mile bike trail along the unused railroad right of way owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in the Town of Tonawanda. The county would like to lease the property from the NFTA for the bike trail.

It has also been in The News that the NFTA is considering a plan to expand Metro Rail by building an elevated section of the system south from the special events station to the authority’s maintenance tracks in the old DL&W Terminal. There’s a huge demand for expansion of the Metro Rail system, especially with development of the Medical Campus accelerating. However, leasing four miles of unused railroad right of way for a bike trail and spending $100 million to $200 million to expand Metro Rail a few thousand feet is shortsighted and a waste of resources.

If the NFTA has the money to spend to expand the system, it could generate much higher ridership by finally extending light rail from LaSalle Station along the unused Tonawanda corridor. The land is there, and light rail can be constructed along an existing right of way much more cheaply than building a subway or elevated system. Many of these new Medical Campus employees would buy homes or rent apartments near the new line and commute to work. Property values in the Town of Tonawanda would be much higher than they are now, and much higher than they would be with a bike trail.

Jeffrey Dahlberg