NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — It’s a renewed hope for travel, updated infrastructure and jobs as it relates to one of Western New York’s biggest assets—the proximity to Canada.
Congressman Brian Higgins and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino are pushing to expand Amtrak service across the border to Toronto.
“A robust train schedule between western New York and ONTARIO would not just be important to the local economy but the national economic recovery as well,” Higgins said.
They want to tap into an $80 billion investment in U.S. infrastructure to make it happen.
“These type of investments would really light a fire under the local economy,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino.
$2 billion in goods and services and more than 400,000 people traditionally cross between the United States and Canada every day, but those numbers have gone down significantly since the pandemic shut down the border more than a year ago.
“The reopening of these borders is a really important part to our economy,” said Mayor Restaino.
But, no one knows when that will happen. Higgins says he believes with increased vaccinations, safety measures and mask usage, the border needs to open.
“We can’t keep the border closed for the next ten years,” Higgins said.
The latest numbers show more than 40% of Erie County’s total population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, 36% in Niagara County, and 19.5% in Ontario. Ontario also reported more than 4,400 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, a new record high in the province.
Higgins and Restaino say a vigorous train schedule between Western New York and Ontario would help boost the U.S. economy. Right now, there’s only one route running from New York City to Toronto, with a stop in Niagara Falls in the late afternoon. It includes a two-hour transfer time for customs processing.
Higgins says to make this work, there will need to be buy-in from the Canadian Government and infrastructure improvements across the border. He says those high-level talks are already underway.