DUNKIRK – Local leaders and stakeholders met this week to discuss plans to develop a new Amtrak station in Chautauqua County.
Over a year ago, Amtrak reached out to the Town of Westfield about the possibility of opening a station in the area. Tuesday, this idea took another step forward when County Executive PJ Wendel met with stakeholders and other officials to discuss the viability of the project.
“One of the statements made yesterday was that the state would support and get behind and push whatever the county decided was the right place. Yes, we want a train service in Chautauqua County, whether it’s Dunkirk or Westfield and that needs to be fleshed out,” says Wendel.
The ability to open a train station in the area is not just up to local officials, however. Amtrak must also come to an agreement with CSX, who owns the physical railroad, to expand out to the region.
“That’s important when we look at increasing the tourism and the possibility of people coming into Chautauqua County,” says Wendel.
The City of Dunkirk plans to fund a study to determine the viability of hosting a stop in the area, which also gives the opportunity for an unbiased third party to determine which location would be most feasible. Wendel explained that either way, it is a win for the county.
“As you know, skyrocketing gas prices are really crippling the economy,” says Wendel. “We’re hoping it doesn’t impact us as we’ve been waiting and been saying now for two years, the regional travel is gonna be imperative for Chautauqua County as we get into a tourism season. The hopes are that that continues. Now you put a railstop in either Westfield or Dunkirk, now you have people coming in from Cleveland, Chicago. They can take a train into Westfield or Dunkirk.”
While the funding for the new station should be solely through Amtrak, further costs may have to be taken on by the locality.
“If a train station is in either place, the employment or the person running that station would be funded locally. So there will be an aspect of local funding that will be in place. Whether that’s county, if it’s in the village or town of Westfield, would they absorb that cost? We just don’t know yet,” admits Wendel.
If granted a new rail stop, the county will work with the revamped CARTs system to get more stops at the new location, as well as stops from the railway to rental car facilities, hotels, and other highly trafficked areas. For example, new trolleys to transport people between popular destinations should arrive by the end of August.