Buffalo Argues It Deserves Light Rail Funding — And Gets It

(Photo by Can Pac Swire)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

New York State Throws Buffalo a Bone for Metro Rail Improvements

While Albany prepares to give New York City a means of raising some of the billions of dollars it will need to rebuild its subways via a congestion charge, a legislator from Western New York made sure that the state’s second metropolis wasn’t forgotten either.

A report in The Buffalo News states that the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have agreed to give the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority $100 million for repairs and improvements to the city’s aging Metro Rail line.

The 6.2-mile, 13-station line has suffered declining ridership as its condition has deteriorated. The money will pay for trackbed replacement, implementation of a fare collection system, vehicle upgrades, escalator rebuilding and safety improvements, including a new video surveillance system.

The agreement also provides $6 million for an engineering study to extend the line to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus.

State legislators from the Buffalo area, in particular state Sen. Tim Kennedy, pushed hard for the funding on equitable-treatment grounds, arguing that Western New York deserved support for its rail system too. New York State funds its urban transit systems outside New York City according to a formula that does not take into account Buffalo’s status as the only other city in the state with rail transit.

Kennedy also pointed out that the $100 million for rehabilitation was crucial to realizing the Metro Rail expansion, as the federal government, which will provide a large share of the money to build the extension, considers how well systems are maintained when it makes funding decisions.

Agreement Paves Way for Regional Rail Service in Krasnodar

Fast-growing Krasnodar, capital of a popular vacation region in Russia’s Caucasus, now has more than one million residents, according to the most recent Russian Federal Statistics Service estimates. Metro Report International reports that it will also get a suburban rail network in the future.

Krasnodar regional Governor Veniamin Kondratyev and Russian Railways (RZD) Chief Executive Oleg Belozerov signed a framework agreement for the development of a suburban rail network for the city on March 12.

The development of such a system became possible with the opening of a 69-km (42.9-mile) two-track freight rail bypass around the city. The bypass removes freight trains from routes passing through the city center and frees up capacity for more passenger service.

“Electric trains will connect the districts adjacent to the regional capital, as well as the districts of Krasnodar itself,” said Kondratyev, adding that this would help relieve traffic congestion.

The agreement did not set out a timetable or budget for the project, though estimates have placed its cost somewhere between 50 billion and 140 billion rubles (US$770 million to $2.15 billion). Funding would likely come from the Russian federal government and RZD.

Budget Cuts Claim LRT Loop in Mississauga as Victim

Railway Age reports that efforts to close a multibillion-dollar budget deficit in Ontario have led the province’s transit funding, planning and construction agency, Metrolinx, to cut the heart out of the Hurontario LRT project in Mississauga.

The cost-cutting removes the Mississauga City Centre/Square One Shopping Mall Loop from the 18-km (11-mile) line. This loop would have directly served three major traffic generators in downtown Mississauga: a bus terminal, an office complex and a major shopping center. While the loop would be only 2.4 km (1.4 miles) long, it would have required expensive tunneling or elevated construction through the shopping mall.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie expressed dismay at the news but hoped that the Loop could be reinstated at a future date, possibly with alternate funding.

Two other minor cuts removed a pedestrian bridge at an interchange station with GO Transit and trimmed the landscaping budget for the line, which will connect the lakeshore with Brampton Gateway Terminal via central Mississauga.

The total estimated cost of the Hurontario LRT is C$1.4 billion (US$1.05 billion), though Railway Age could not confirm whether this figure includes or leaves out the trimmed items.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

Follow Sandy .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)