Niagara Gazette

March 17, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Rail station project by the numbers

By Paul Dyster
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — There are five very important Niagara Falls International Railway and Intermodal Transportation Center (rail station) items up for city council vote at 7 p.m. on Monday. These votes will decide if this major construction project can move forward or will be delayed. To be clear, any delay does endanger this project. Unfortunately, misinformation is making its way through the community. As mayor, I want to make sure you have the correct details on this and every project. Here is the rail station project by the numbers:

• For every one dollar the city spends on this project, the federal and state government will spend approximately $10.

• The city council is not voting to spend any money on March 18. Further, no dollars will ever be spent in a lump sum. This is a pay as you go arrangement. Niagara Falls dollars are the last out of the door. The federal and state government pay their shares first. City funds stay in our bank account until needed.

• The rail station project equals jobs. It will create approximately 200 full time equivalent construction jobs and almost 400 indirect full equivalent time jobs. That is 137,000 total man hours.

• An average of 50-plus skilled laborers will be on the project site every day for two years. That’s scheduled and dependable work.

• Let’s break that down by households. The rail station carries 3,425 individual paychecks for trades’ workers with it. These are family supporting, full-time paychecks. We need this in Niagara Falls.

• Train station construction will create jobs right here, right now. A project apprenticeship program will get trades men and women ready for work tomorrow and training program will get local people trained for the future.

• In addition, there will be 20-25 separate contracts, giving local companies the opportunity to compete for work. I am confident in our community’s workforce and our local businesses’ ability to get that contracted work.

• The federal government is paying for 77 percent of the project, New York State is paying for 10 percent of the project and Niagara Falls is paying for 13 percent of the project. These are the same percentages that we all agreed on when we put in the application.

The total construction cost estimate is $25.6 million and the city’s share is $3.2 million. A majority of those dollars are dedicated to bricks, mortar and rail improvements. Of, course there are funds for professional services and contingency. We are paying experts to do expert work, just like when you and I hire someone to fix something at our homes that we cannot ourselves. That is just common sense.

We estimate that the city’s share of the project is $3.2 million. However, we need to go out to bid to get the actual contract amount. Again, there is no $3.2 million lump sum payment. This project is paid by invoices, with the federal and state government paying their share first.

In the construction world, time is money. If the project does not go out to bid by April, the city may lose the entire 2013 construction season or force the contractor to escalate the schedule, which costs more. If the contract were awarded in July, the earliest payment would be requested in August or September. Either way, more delay will cost us time, money and will keep our people off of a job site.

Nearly 1,000 organizations applied for this U.S. Department of Transportation grant and Niagara Falls was only one of less than 50 to win the funds that year. Nationwide, we were in the top 10 of award amounts. Our city won that $16.5 million grant because we have a project that makes sense.

Zero is the number of grant funds we will receive if we decide not to compete. Government funding is all about competition now. The city absolutely needs to get grants for everything from police services to repaving streets. There are no more state and federal earmarks being handed out. Turning away these dollars now will hurt the city’s ability win future dollars.

You now have the facts and the numbers. I believe that sharing actual information with you is far more valuable than giving you my opinion or criticizing others. The council meeting starts at 7 p.m. on Monday. Thank you for your time.

Paul Dyster is the mayor of Niagara Falls.