Inside look at new Niagara Falls train station

Posted at 4:59 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 07:23:02-05

An old building slated for demolition has been brought back to life. The once crumbling Customs building by the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls has been turned a sign of hope for the future of the Cataract City.

"This is all brand new," said Mike DeSantis, the city's Senior Project Designer, by the train tracks, "including the rail which we're relocating where it was right up to the station."

The old Customs house dates back to the 19th century. However, construction workers have been restoring it and adding on a large addition since June of 2014.

The Amtrak train station is expected to open in June. It's currently about 75 percent complete.

Inside, the entrance opens up to an open area, which will likely include displays of the Underground Railroad and a gathering area. A staircase leads up to the concourse.

Also on the first floor of the original Customs building, will be a museum dedicated to the history of the Underground Railroad.

Upstairs is a waiting area for people and a ticket counter.

The second floor of the original building and part of the addition make up the area for Customs and Border Protection Officers. It is complete with bullet proof glass, steel walls, interrogation rooms and a holding center.

"As national security interest is rising throughout the country, this is no different here," explained DeSantis of the design. "We have to build to (the federal government's) standards.

For those exiting the train "there will be busses here, maybe tour busses to other points in the city to see tourists areas," DeSantis said.

The train station marks a ray of hope for the City of Niagara Falls in ongoing development projects.

"Having a train station that's located in the right place on the international border and relative to downtown is critical to the development, not just of Niagara Falls, but the region," said Mayor Paul Dyster (D).

The current train station is located in an old freight building.

"It's one of the saddest things," remarked Dyster. "You'll see sometimes foreign tourists with their bags in tow, getting off at the train station, assuming -- because it's what's the case in most other cities -- that it's near the downtown and they can walk to their hotel. They don't realize in order to reach downtown you have to go across the whole city of Niagara Falls."

A warm winter helped construction move along. DeSantis and Dyster both explained that some of the outside work could be done more efficiently with warmer weather. As temperatures became cold, workers were far enough along to heat the area where they work.

The work left includes drywall, paint, putting down the floor and electrical work.

The project costs $43 million. The City of Niagara Falls contributed $4 million to the cost. Much of the funding comes from federal aid.

Construction also included work on nearby infrastructure. The city even had to lower two bridges by the building.

The train station is expected to open in June of 2016.