CASTILE, N.Y., Oct. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Supporting jobs and the economy of New York's Southern Tier, Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), the New York State Department of Transportation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, alongside numerous other supporters, broke ground today on a new $70 million steel arch railroad bridge in Letchworth State Park.
The new single-track bridge – expected to take about three years to construct – will be 900 feet long and located about 75 feet south of the current iron truss bridge, which spans the Genesee River Gorge. NS also will construct 1,200 feet of new track on either side of the gorge to align existing tracks with the new bridge.
"This successful public-private partnership underscores the strong confidence we all have in the ongoing potential of the Southern Tier," said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. "Norfolk Southern has a robust bridge program, and the new Portageville Bridge will be a testament to today's expert engineers and the craftsmanship of today's railroaders. We expect this project will start a new rail legacy for Letchworth State Park and the Southern Tier."
When completed, the new bridge will be the linchpin of a vibrant Norfolk Southern rail line that helps businesses in Buffalo and the Southern Tier regions connect with markets east and west. Among the New York-based entities to benefit from the new bridge will be 10 short line railroads that serve local businesses and connect them to the Norfolk Southern network.
"This project is critical to the economy of the Southern Tier," said New York State Sen. Patrick Gallivan. "The current bridge has served the region well for 140 years, but it must be replaced with a modern span that can meet the transportation needs of the 21st century. In addition to the construction jobs this project will create, the bridge will serve and support businesses throughout the region for years to come."
The budget for the bridge project includes $3 million in design costs and $2.5 million in construction costs from the New York Department of Transportation; a $2 million grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; and a $10 million grant from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Norfolk Southern will contribute the balance. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2015.
"Maintaining a safe, modern freight rail network throughout New York State is critical to supporting business and generating economic activity," said Matthew J. Driscoll, New York State Department of Transportation commissioner. "The new Portageville Bridge will be a beautiful and more efficient addition to Letchworth State Park and is one more example of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's commitment to New York State's rail network."
"The Portageville Bridge project is a great example of building better infrastructure through partnerships between governments at the local, state, and federal level and the private sector," said Michael Canavan, FHWA New York Division chief operating officer. "FHWA is proud to be a part of it. New York now has a bridge across the Genesee River that will move long distance freight more efficiently by rail while protecting the beautiful Letchworth State Park for the good of residents, neighbors, and visitors."
The Erie Railroad built the current wrought-iron bridge in 1875, and while it has served several railroad owners from the Erie Lackawanna Railroad to Conrail, its current condition can no longer efficiently handle modern-day freight rail transportation. Currently, Norfolk Southern must slow freight trains crossing the bridge to 10 mph, and freight car weights must be reduced 13,000 pounds below the industry standard.
"Our customers look to Norfolk Southern for a 21st century transportation option that's safe, reliable, and efficient," said Jim Carter, Norfolk Southern chief engineer bridge and structures. "The way we meet this demand is to have a dependable infrastructure. We look to this new Portageville Bridge as a critical part of the Southern Tier's success story."
"The replacement Portageville Bridge will continue to complement the natural beauty of Letchworth State Park, while removing a longtime transportation bottleneck," said Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman. "Breaking ground on this project underscores the importance of private and state partners collaborating to accommodate the freight rail transportation that is so critical to our region's economic viability. We are pleased that the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is supporting this major infrastructure project."
The current bridge will remain open during construction of the new arch bridge and then be dismantled. During construction, the Portage entrance to Letchworth State Park will be closed to vehicular traffic. The nearby Castile entrance has been enhanced and will accommodate additional vehicular traffic. Additionally, the Mary Jemison, Finger Lakes and Gorge trails, and the Highbridge parking lot will be closed during construction.
State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "State Parks congratulates our partners at DOT and Norfolk Southern on the start of this important economic development project. The new bridge was thoughtfully designed to frame the view of the magnificent gorge for all who visit the nation's favorite state park."
About Norfolk Southern
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation's premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.
SOURCE Norfolk Southern Corporation