Construction starts on Letchworth Park bridge

Oct 27, 2015

The 140-year-old Portageville Bridge in Letchworth State Park is being replaced.

Norfolk Southern is set to begin construction on a new railroad bridge in Letchworth Park. The $70 million single-track bridge is expected to take three years to construct. It will replace the historic Portageville Bridge, which will be dismantled upon the project’s completion.

Credit New York State Parks

Norfolk Southern Manager of Public Relations Dave Pidgeon says transporting cargo more efficiently will boost economic growth in the Southern Tier.

“The current bridge has had a 140-year legacy of handling rail traffic in the Southern Tier. And it really is a testament to the engineering expertise, and the labor force, and the craftsmanship from 140 years ago. It has done its job,” said Pidgeon.

“We have to slow trains down to 10 miles an hour, we have to reduce cargo loads. And if this bridge should ever go out of service, it would mean a significant consequence to transit times for customers,” he added. “A fully-loaded train can take 280 trucks off the roadway. So there is great public benefit in that way because that means less wear and tear on the public roadway.”

Pidgeon says there will also be an environmental advantage.

“Another benefit to this project is the Genesee River will now be free flowing. The current bridge, once it is dismantled, the trestles will be removed and the footprint will be taken out of the river. You will have a new scene in that part of the park, with what we think is going to be a beautiful steel arch bridge.”

The project was approved by the Federal Highway Administration, which will provide some funding, at the end of last year.

“I know some people may ask why a railroad bridge project would be the recipient of a Federal Highway Administration fund. That’s because a fully-loaded train can take 280 trucks off the roadway. So there is great public benefit in that way because that means less wear-and-tear on the public roadway,” said Pidgeon.

The new structure will be 900 feet long and located about 75 feet south of the current bridge. Norfolk Southern will also build 1,200 feet of new rails on either side of the Genesee River gorge.

Pidgeon said other upgrades will be made to Letchworth.

“Once it is done, Norfolk Southern will help contribute to some enhancements to current hiking trails. There will be an expansion of the High Falls parking lot area. So there will be some improvements made to the park once this project is done,” said Pidgeon.