Portage, NY According to governor Andrew Cuomo, freight rail service on the new Portageville Bridge in Letchworth State Park has begun. The new bridge will allow Norfolk Southern Railway to continue safe, reliable and efficient rail operations on the route–operations that are critical to the economic viability and growth of Upstate New York.
“The new Portageville Bridge complements the beauty of Letchworth State Park while providing safer, more efficient freight rail service,” governor Cuomo said. “Through a combined effort with Norfolk Southern, government leaders and the public, we have built a modern arch bridge which will support economic growth in the region and continued our drive to strengthen and modernize transportation infrastructure across the state for generations to come.”
In December 2014, governor Cuomo unveiled 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.
The new bridge was constructed just to the south of the old Portageville Bridge, which was built in 1875 and has been a prominent feature in Letchworth State Park for over a century. That structure will be removed upon completion of the new arch span. The new bridge addresses deficiencies in the historic structure and is capable of carrying current industry standard freight rail loads while, to the greatest degree possible, meeting Federal Railroad Administration travel speeds.
The design and construction for the $75 million bridge project included $15.5 million in funds provided through the New York State, including a $2 million grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and $13.5 million in State and federal funds through the New York State Department of Transportation; and $59.5 million from Norfolk Southern.
James Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO, said, “This is a very exciting day for Norfolk Southern and for the future of freight rail service in New York’s Southern Tier region. The successful completion of this bridge is an excellent demonstration of how the public and private sectors can work together on freight transportation projects that generate significant public benefits and are vital to U.S. commerce. It’s also a testament to Norfolk Southern’s robust bridge program and the ingenuity of engineers and railroaders.”
The route is a critical freight rail link between Buffalo and Binghamton, and provides connections to Canada and the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. In addition to serving as essential freight link for Norfolk Southern, the Southern Tier route is used by Canadian Pacific Railway and provides interchange connections to 11 short line railroads.
The bridge was identified in the 2009 New York State Rail Plan as one of the ten rail bottlenecks in the state. In 2011, the Regional Economic Development Council’s Strategic Plan identified replacement of the bridge among their five-year projects to address barriers to economic growth.
Representatives from Norfolk Southern worked collaboratively on this project with 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.
New York State Department of Transportation acting commissioner Paul Karas said, “The new Portageville Bridge will help keep New York’s rail network running safely and efficiently, a top priority for companies looking to locate and grow their businesses in the Empire State. This is one more example of governor Cuomo’s support for strengthening the State’s transportation infrastructure in a way that helps boost local and regional economies.”