Friday, December 14, 2012

Historic Portageville Bridge receives DEIS, plans public hearing

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) says the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a project to replace the Portageville Bridge carrying the Norfolk Southern railroad over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park is available for public review. The bridge runs between Portage in Wyoming County and Genesee Falls in Livingston County.

"The Portageville Bridge Replacement Project is essential to maintaining the competitive balance of freight rail transportation in New York State and the rest of New England," said Jim Carter Jr., chief engineer bridges and structures for Norfolk Southern. "Now is the time to complete this project as demand for rail service is rising. Bridge construction costs have more than tripled since 2000, and so has the importance of the rail line to the local communities it serves. Modernizing the bridge is vital to ensuring affordable and efficient rail access for shippers and shortlines that rely on the Southern Tier."

The proposed project will build a new bridge just to the south of the existing structure. Norfolk Southern will move forward into final design with an arch structure that will provide a safer, more modern rail bridge. A small amount of land will need to be acquired by the railroad where the new bridge will be located.

The existing bridge was built in 1875 after a fire destroyed the former wooden bridge structure. NYSDOT is soliciting comments about the fate of that existing structure after the new bridge is in operation. The bridge, which is on the National Historic Register, could be preserved or demolished.

The bridge was identified in the 2009 New York State Rail Plan as one of the 10 most significant rail bottlenecks in the state. In 2011, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council identified replacement of the bridge among its five-year projects to address barriers to economic growth in its Strategic Plan.

The project to build a new rail bridge is expected to cost approximately $69 million. NYSDOT has contributed approximately $3 million in design costs and has secured $2.5 million for construction costs. The balance would be provided by the railroad and possibly by additional public funds. The funding includes a grant of $2 million from the Regional Economic Development Council.

Construction could begin in 2013 or 2014 and would last at least three years..

A joint DOT/Norfolk Southern public hearing will be held on Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Genesee River Restaurant and Reception Center, 134 North Main Street, Mount Morris, 14510. Based on the findings of the DEIS, the written and oral comments received during the public hearing and comments received during the public comment period, NYSDOT will select an alternative and prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The DEIS is available for review on the DOT website at www.dot.ny.gov/portagevillebridge

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