Plan For New Arch Bridge Moves Forward, Construction to Start in 2015
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced federal approval of the plan to build a new arch bridge to replace the historic Portageville Bridge carrying the Norfolk Southern Railway Southern Tier Line over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. The Federal Highway Administration has issued a Record of Decision for design and construction of the new bridge, which spans between Portage in Livingston County and Genesee Falls in Wyoming County.
“Today marks a critical milestone in our effort to build a new, modern arch bridge to carry freight along this important stretch of rail line,” Governor Cuomo said. “By receiving the federal government’s approval we can now move forward with this new project – which will replace the existing bridge and better incorporate it into the beautiful surroundings of Letchworth State Park. I am pleased that we have reached this stage in the project, and I look forward to seeing construction begin in 2015.”
This federal approval completes the last step of the project's environmental impact review and allows the railroad to move forward with implementing a plan to build a new bridge. The Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued on December 16, 2014, and contains a list of environmental impacts and other issues pertaining to construction as well as the required mitigation measures.
New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “It is imperative that we are able to move freight quickly and efficiently through New York State and make New York a viable place for manufacturers to locate and create jobs. I thank Governor Cuomo for his support of transportation infrastructure throughout the State and his commitment to investing in Upstate New York’s economy by promoting this rail project.”
Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “The approved plan wisely balances the needs of the State’s economy with the interests of Letchworth State Park. I’m grateful to DOT for leading the thorough and public process that led to this result.”
Wick Moorman, Chief Executive Officer of Norfolk Southern Railway said, “A new improved Portageville Bridge will enhance NS’ ability to provide safe, reliable and efficient freight transportation to New York State and New England. We’re grateful to Governor Cuomo for his vision and we appreciate the efforts of NYSDOT and our other public partners in their quick approvals to move the project to this point. Together we’re leading the way toward a new economic legacy in New York’s Southern Tier.”
Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said, “This Portageville Bridge project highlights how early and effective coordination between federal, state, local, and private partners can streamline the environmental process. All concerned should be proud about this process that resulted in the final signing of the Record of Decision in only 14 months and that means benefits to the traveling public sooner.”
A new bridge will be constructed just to the south of the existing structure. Norfolk Southern will build an arch structure that will not only provide a safer, more modern rail bridge, but will also complement the natural beauty of Letchworth State Park and provide a stunning scene over the gorge. Construction is expected to get underway in 2015 and will take approximately three years.
The existing bridge was built in 1875 and has been a prominent feature in Letchworth State Park for more than a century. The current bridge will be removed upon completion of the new arch span.
The project will address existing deficiencies and build a bridge capable of carrying current industry standard freight rail loads and to the greatest degree possible meeting Federal Railroad Administration travel speeds, while reducing ongoing maintenance efforts and costs. The project is needed in order for Norfolk Southern to continue safe, reliable, and efficient rail operations on the Southern Tier route. These operations are critical to the economic viability and growth of the Southern Tier and other affected areas of New York.
Construction of the new rail bridge is expected to cost approximately $71 million. NYSDOT has contributed $3 million in design costs and has secured $12.5 million of state and federal funding for construction costs. The balance would be provided by the railroad. The funding includes a grant of $2 million from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
The bridge was identified in the 2009 New York State Rail Plan as one of the ten most significant rail bottlenecks in the state. In 2011, the Regional Economic Development Council identified replacement of the bridge among their five-year projects to address barriers to economic growth in their Strategic Plan.
Representatives from a nine federal and state agencies and Norfolk Southern were in contact and met regularly throughout the environmental review process. Federal agencies involved include the Federal Highway Administration; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; National Park Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. State agencies involved include the Department of Environmental Conservation; Department of Transportation; and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
More information is available on the project website at www.dot.ny.gov/portagevillebridge.