By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — Local residents often ask why Niagara Falls is building a new train station (a complex to exceed $40 million) when so few people ride trains anymore.
While they may not be taking the train to the Cataract City, there is solid evidence that Amtrak passenger volumes continue to rise in New York state, especially in upstate communities. If indeed the numbers for Niagara Falls are as low as some argue, then perhaps the city and its official tourism agency need to expand their marketing and promotion strategies.
Bruce B. Becker, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, is optimistic that construction on the new Falls station could begin later this year now that the prolonged dispute between the state and the Seneca Nation of Indians has been resolved. That settlement released some $85 million to Niagara Falls, the city’s long-delayed share of casino slot machine money.
It’s true that few visitors arrive or depart daily at the Amtrak Station off Hyde Park Boulevard. Those figures are in sharp contrast to the passenger volumes reported in Buffalo (Depew) and Rochester, where the contract for a new station could be awarded this fall with construction completed in 36 months. That project is destined to take longer because of extensive track removal and related work. Becker is confident the improvements will make the trains even more appealing to those traveling in and out of Rochester where the passenger count is up 90 percent in the past five years. Overall, in the same time frame, ridership is up nearly 50 percent across the state.
At this point, no one is predicting a sharp resurgence in train travel only because of a new station in the North End, but it shouldn’t hurt to have better accommodations for the passengers that they now have at a converted Leigh Valley freight house a few miles from downtown Niagara Falls.
ACROSS THE BORDER: Friends of Fort George and Parks Canada will commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Queenston Heights and the death of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock on Oct. 12.
Amanda Gamble, general manager of Friends of Fort George, said the Brock’s Monument National Historic Site will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that weekend, Oct. 12-13, for guided tours. People interested in an overview of the site will be invited to climb the 235 steps to the top of the monument. From that unique spot, the visitors can enjoy the panorama of Queenston Heights Park, the sprawling farmlands, and the Niagara River stretching to Lake Ontario.
VILLAGE VOICES: “All items in here are from artists and craftsmen from around Western New York,” said Aaron Dey, a co-owner of the new Dory Trading Post, 453 Main St., in Youngstown. Out front, ‘Jake,’ a carved figure decked out in best fall attire, stands guard amidst the harvest setting complete with giant pumpkins from a Porter farm. Others invested in the venture are Aaron’s wife, ‘Miss Jane,’ Elizabeth Beaty of Youngstown, and Gary and Marilyn Brennan, proprietors of Brennan’s Irish Pub.
The Dory also will handle tickets for the new jet boat ride along the lower Niagara River, between the village and the Whirlpool area in Niagara Falls.
TRIVIA QUIZ: In what year did Army win its college football national championship? (Answer Thursday)
NEW APPROACH: In the recent newsletter to the Niagara Catholic alumni, president and principal Ronald K. Buggs notes the school will become a Hospitality & Tourism Academy in 2014-15 as part of its ongoing relationship with Niagara University.
MARK THE CALENDAR: The always popular Old Falls Street Oktoberfest, sponsored by the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association, is set for Oct. 12, from 1 to 8 p.m. The free event will be held rain or shine in the middle block of the street between Third Street and the Niagara Falls State Park. A spokesman said the entertainment will be provided by the German American Musicians, the Bergholz German Band, the Alphorn Society of Western New York and the SGTV Edelweiss Dancers. Menu favorites: traditional German food, beer and wine. “It’s become the marquee fall event downtown,” says Ryan Coate, chairman of the business association and general manager of the Niagara Falls Conference and Event Center on Old Falls Street.Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, 2246.