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New Rail Station Opens in Downtown Buffalo

By November 12, 2020 No Comments
Buffalo Exchange Street ribbon cutting.
State and local officials cut the ribbon for the new Buffalo Exchange Street Station. Front row, left to right: State Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Byron Brown and State Senator Timothy Kennedy.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The city’s new downtown Exchange Street Station opened on Nov. 8, 2020, with the arrival of the eastbound Maple Leaf  (Toronto-Albany-New York). Located just south of Sahlen Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons baseball team, Exchange Street Station is also within walking distance of KeyBank Center, Canalside and Niagara Square. It’s easily accessed via major highways including the Buffalo Skyway and Interstate 190, while the Metro Rail and numerous bus lines are within walking distance. 

Since the mid-19th century, Exchange Street has been synonymous with the railroad in Buffalo. The new depot was designed and built through a nearly $28 million contract awarded by the New York State Department of Transportation in late 2018. The modern, accessible and energy-efficient facility, designed by Sowinski Sullivan Architects, is twice the size of its predecessor that stood on the same site until demolished in 2019. It is located closer to Exchange Street for improved access and visibility. 

Buffalo Exchange Street station
The main entrance on Exchange Street is punctuated by a clock face at the cornice line.

The new rail facility was designed to accommodate the future expansion of intercity bus service and additional train frequencies. While pedestrians and bicyclists are better accommodated, the station also offers more parking and a designated drop off and pickup area. 

“Access to multiple forms of transportation is essential to growing any local economy. For far too long, the Queen City has been without a welcoming rail station that’s commensurate with the growth Western New York has experienced in recent years. Thanks to the hard work of so many people, Buffalo now has the modern transportation hub it deserves.” 

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul joined city, county and state leaders to cut the ribbon on the new facility. “This new station is a shining beacon of hope for the future as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hochul. “It’s a symbol of Buffalo’s strength and resiliency, enhancing transportation and connectivity in the area. Downtown Buffalo has become a destination, and this station extends a vital corridor to the waterfront and continues our efforts to build back better our economy, increase tourism and enhance quality of life.” 

Interior of Buffalo Exchange Street Station showing a waiting room with benches.
The full-height waiting room is bright and airy, and features a buffalo medallion in the floor.

Mayor Byron W. Brown added, “The completion of the new Exchange Street Station is a major step forward as we continue to modernize and enhance public accessibility and passenger experience in downtown Buffalo…With substantial input from our community, the new Exchange Street Station serves as a great interconnected gateway into downtown Buffalo, and will make travel easier for residents and visitors alike, while also spurring economic activity and tourism. I thank Governor Cuomo and the Department of Transportation for their continued commitment and investment in Buffalo’s future.” 

Built of rich red brick with a buff-colored ashlar cast stone used for the base and cornice, the 4,800 square foot depot features a two-story pavilion with a barrel-vaulted roof on the western end and a one-story section on the eastern end. The pavilion houses the passenger waiting room, ticket office and restrooms. The roof’s two end gables are filled with glass, which combined with pairs of semi-circular windows along both sides of the roof, means the interior is flooded with natural light during the day. A canopy wraps around the western side and southern – or trackside – of the building to protect customers from inclement weather as they approach or leave the platform. 

View of Buffalo Exchange Street Station across a lawn.
Looking west toward the depot from the high-level platform.

Inside the passenger pavilion, which has seating for 40 customers, a gleaming terrazzo floor features a central medallion with the image of a brown buffalo. On the eastern wall, photo murals show two former New York Central Railroad stations that once stood in the vicinity. As passengers head for the platform, they pass under a seal of the State of New York that hangs above the southern entryway. While waiting for their train, customers can enjoy a treat from a Taste NY kiosk that stocks popular food and beverages from across the state, including some Buffalo-area specialties. 

The redesigned concrete platform with tactile edge is level with the train car doors, making it easier and safer for customers to board and alight from trains. Passengers can wait under the shelter of a new canopy, while new lighting ensures better visibility at night.  

Attractive hardscaping around the building creates a pedestrian plaza. A small, planted area includes a statue of a buffalo. The plaza also leads to a revamped walkway under I-190 where colorful undulating LED lights attached to the underside of the highway viaduct, as well as lighting on select supports, create a more welcoming connection for people on foot or bikes between the Amtrak station and a light rail stop two blocks west on Main Street.  

Underside of a highway with LED lighting attached.
The passageway between the station and Main Street features special hardscaping and a colorful LED light installation.

“This new, world-class Buffalo station is part of New York State’s historic commitment to not only restore our transportation infrastructure but build it back better and more resilient for the benefit of this generation and generations to come,” said State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez. In recent years, New York State has funded modern new rail stations in Niagara Falls, Schenectady and Rochester

The Exchange Street Station serves Empire Service (Niagara Falls-Albany-New York) trains and the Maple Leaf.  Customers wishing to head west or east aboard the  Lake Shore Limited  (Chicago-Buffalo-New York/Boston) must use the Buffalo-Depew stop east of the city. In fiscal year 2019, more than 43,000 customers used the Exchange Street Station. Empire Service trains are supported by funds made available by the New York State Department of Transportation. 

Images: Darren McGee/NYSDOT.

Posted Nov. 12, 2020.