Amtrak Vague on Train Station Deal

amtrak

While Mayor Paul Dyster’s proposed 2017 budget includes a $172,000 payment from Amtrak as a tenant at the currently empty $43 million train station, there is still no agreement on a lease although in a statement to the Niagara Falls Reporter on Wednesday, Amtrak said work on an agreement is continuing.

Now that sounds kind of familiar, something that the mayor and his top planner have been saying for some time although there is still no sign that an agreement is imminent.

We put in a call to the mayor on Wednesday, but he didn’t respond, perhaps because he had nothing to say.  But we did talk to Craig Schulz from Amtrak Corporate Communications and he sent the following email:

“Amtrak continues to work with the City of Niagara Falls toward execution of a lease agreement allowing us to occupy space in the new train station.  We are working through the remaining issues which we are optimistic can be resolved. We look forward to moving Amtrak operations into the new building and inaugurating service to the new station.”

That’s it, the entire statement.  Could those “remaining issues” center around how much Amtrak is willing to pay to occupy the international train station?  Some observers believe the city is hoping for numbers that Amtrak might not be willing to pay.  An unsatisfactory agreement could weight heavily on the city budget going forward as the yearly cost to operate the station is pegged at more than $380,000.

Council President Andy Touma said last week that it is his understanding that an agreement with Amtrak is “extremely close.” And the administration, most recently through City Planner Thomas DeSantis, has been saying the same thing for months.  It sort of sounds a little like the Hamister Hotel project that was coming for four years until ground was finally broken only recently.

While the Amtrak statement issued to this newspaper is perhaps purposely vague, at least it suggests that talks indeed are taking place and maybe something will happen soon, as the administration hopes, as it did for all those years with Hamister.

Of course, neither the city or Amtrak will get into the specifics of why an agreement hasn’t already been reached, given the grand new $43 million station is just sitting there waiting for something to happen.   Maybe it will, as DeSantis said last week, but so far there is no deal, only talk.

It would seem likely that what Amtrak is willing to pay the city is the possible stumbling block, as some observers believe the city is hoping for more than Amtrak is willing to pay.  Whatever the roadblock, despite all the “close” talk from both sides, the station is still empty and there is still no Hamister Hotel on Rainbow Blvd.

Stay tuned, maybe Amtrak will arrive before the hotel.  We’ll just have to wait and see.


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