NIAGARA FALLS – Decades-old plans for a new train station in the city appear to be finally coming to fruition.
Groundbreaking on the last phase of a $41 million Niagara Falls International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center may begin as soon as next month after a construction contract was awarded to a Falls firm last week.
Scrufari Construction will soon turn the project site near the Whirlpool Bridge just north of Ontario Street, between Main and Whirlpool streets, into a work site.
City officials have previously said the construction will take 18 months to two years to complete.
“I’m extremely gratified that we were able to pass a series of measures tonight that make the train station project a reality,” Mayor Paul A. Dyster said after Monday’s Council meeting, when lawmakers awarded a $22.7 million contract for the North End project.
Dyster said that while he still had to talk about the work with Scrufari representatives, groundbreaking is likely to happen sometime in May.
This is the third and final phase of the project, which will cost an estimated $41 million in total. The first phase involved the stabilization of the former Customs House, which will house part of the station and an Underground Railroad museum. The second phase included upgrades to the railroad bridge over Main Street. Roughly 87 percent of the project’s costs are being picked up by the federal and state governments.
The first phase cost $2.7 million, while the second cost about $6 million.
The Council also approved a $3.1 million contract for construction management services for this phase to its consultant, Wendel Cos., and formally accepted an additional $1.4 million in state funding for the project. The state already had pledged $2.5 million toward the project. In order to obtain the additional state funding, the city had to agree to allocate several hundred thousand dollars more of its own funds, Dyster said.
A major source of funding for the project is a $16.5 million grant through the Federal Railroad Association.
The city put the project out to bid late last year, but the responses came back higher than the amount the city had budgeted, so the scope of work was reduced without making what would be considered major design changes.
This time, Scrufari came in with the lower of two bids for the work. LPCiminelli was the other firm to place a bid. Scrufari’s base bid was $23.7 million, while LPCiminelli’s was $24.3 million. The city’s engineering consultants recommended the city remove some of the project alternates, which is why the contract value dropped below the base bid value.
Councilman Glenn A. Choolokian voted against the contract with Wendel and accepting the additional state funding, saying the project will be “another burden on the taxpayers.” He was the only lawmaker to cast a vote in opposition to any of the three measures. Choolokian did vote in favor of awarding the contract to Scrufari, saying he is happy a local firm was getting the work.
Council Chairman Charles A. Walker said he thought it is important for a tourist town to have a train station closer to where tourists want to be, and not “in the middle of nowhere,” where the current station sits. “To grow and build a city, you have to invest in that city,” Walker said.