Video: St. Catharines, Niagara Falls historic train stations to get spruced up as transit service expands


Published September 2, 2022 at 3:46 pm

An old-time photo of the St. Catharines Train Station at 5 Great Western St. Based on the horse-and-buggies, this photo is likely from the 1920s. (Photo: St. Catharines Museum)

St. Catharines and Niagara Falls now own their two most iconic train stations following a deal between Niagara Region and VIA Rail.

However, that same deal still has to clear one hurdle – approval from Parks Canada.

Niagara Region certainly hope the deal clears as they have committed $40 million as part of its station development strategy back in 2016 to be a catalyst for GO expansion and has been advancing numerous station-enabling projects across the two station sites along with St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

The significant investment includes updates and expansions to these two iconic VIA Rail/GO Rail stations in Niagara Falls (4267 Bridge St.) and St. Catharines (5 Great Western St.)

Certainly, both mayors are onside with the potential deal.

“This project will completely change the way people travel to and from Niagara Falls and spur major upgrades in our downtown core,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.

“The scope spans from underground updates to prioritizing safe traffic flow and modernizing the VIA/GO Rail Station into a warm, welcoming hub for travelers. We can’t wait to see it all come together!”

St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik was equally enthused, noting, “The acquisition of the VIA station is an important milestone that will allow Niagara Region to progress on developing a multi-modal hub that not only supports GO Transit services, but also regional transit and other transit tenants.”

“It will also serve as catalyst for transformational change in the area around the station, as envisioned in the St. Catharines GO Transit Station Secondary Plan.”

The work to be done on both sites is extensive. At the Niagara Falls station, the plans call for:

  • ​Acquired the VIA/GO Rail station and surrounding station property
  • Planned station building and site improvements including:
    • ​A new multi-modal mobility hub preserving the historic VIA/GO Rail station, while modernizing the interior structure for multiple transit tenants
    • New bus loops with nine bays split between the east and west side of the building, moving the existing transit plaza on Erie Avenue to be adjacent to the station for safer and more efficient movement of people
    • Modernized washrooms and customer waiting area, including a dedicated space for bus operators
  • ​New Victoria Avenue roundabout that connects Victoria Avenue, Thorold Stone Road (extension) and Bridge Street; thus, improving traffic flow/function in the station area
  • Bridge Street reconstruction providing active transportation connections; accommodations for future growth; safe movement of transit; and accommodating increased pedestrian volumes at the station

In St. Catharines, there’s also a lot of work to be done, including:

  • ​Acquired the VIA Rail station and surrounding station property
  • Complete reconstruction of the VIA station site including:
    • ​A new multi-modal mobility hub preserving the historic VIA/GO Rail station,
    • Establishing new bus connections for Niagara Region Transit (NRT) and GO Transit; parking enhancements; public plaza space; active transportation connections
    • Constructing a new site access road connecting the station to Ridley Road in partnership with the City of St. Catharines and Ridley College.
    • Anew bus loop with six bays resulting in overall improvements to the property, including appropriate site access and servicing

This potential land shifts implements a critical piece of the Region’s GO Station Development Strategy and when complete, will see new multi-modal bus-meets-train connections at the two heritage station sites, and ensures a firm foundation is set for planned increases of GO train service to Niagara.

The Niagara Falls Train Station at 4267 Bridge St. should see some serious improvements should a land transfer from VIA Rail and Niagara Region go through.

For his part, Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley wants to connect town and cities in the region to the nearby GTA.

“Regular, enhanced GO Train service will provide superior connectivity between Niagara and the rest of the GTHA through public transit allowing people to travel seamlessly along the GO network. The station and infrastructure improvements we are making will create a generational impact on this area, this community, and the way in which transit options are leveraged for decades to come,” said Bradley.

Here’s a closer look at the St. Catharines train station.

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