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Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
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   Author  Topic: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY  (Read 2798 times)
George_Harris
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Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« on: Oct 18th, 2010, 1:55am »
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A plan is underway to replace the huge bridge at Letchworth State Park over the Genessee River.
 
I did not know where to put this thread.  
1. Maybe under North American Railroads on the Norfolk Southern board, because NS is the current operator of the bridge.  
2. Maybe under Fallen Flags on the Erie Lackawanna Board, since the line and bridge were formerly the Erie Railroad main line between Hornell, New York and Buffalo.  
3. Finally decided to put in under Physical Plant – Infrastructure, since the main point is the bridge and the line, regardless of who is or was the owner and operator.
 
Most of the following is from information found on either the Letchworth Park or the New York State Department of Transportation web sites, which I would assume reasonable to consider free use.  Some is from other web sites, and some from other research and personal knowledge, source forgotten.
 
From the NYSDOT site:  The bridge is at milepost 361.66 on the Norfolk Southern’s Southern Tier Line, located in the towns of Portage in Livingston County and Genesse Falls in Wyoming County.  (For reference:  Hornell is at milepost 331.3, Warsaw NY at 375.4, and Buffalo at 423.8.  Zero is at Jersey City, NJ.)
 
Further informationcan be found at https://www.nysdot.gov/programs/smart-planning/repository/PBRapplication.pdf
 
It appears that the proposed bridge will be partly funded by NS and partly by New York state.  The most reasonable plan (in my opinion, at least) and the one appearing most likely to happen is to place the new bridge about 75 feet south of the existing bridge and connect it in by modifying the line in the curves on each side of the bridge.  From some of what was stated, the existing bridge may be deeded over to the state and turned into a pedestrian bridge.  The rendering shows the new bridge as having a single span steel arch over the gorge.  This bridge will be the third at the site.  
 
A brief history:
 
The first bridge was a very large wood trestle.  According to the park web site, construction began on July 1, 1852, but this is a typo, as elsewhere the date is given as July 1, 1851.  The first train across it ran on August 14, 1852.  The news article on the fire that destroyed the bridge states that construction started in the spring of 1851 and the first train passed over it on August 16, 1852.  (Nearly 160 years removed from the event, there would seem to be no reason to quibble over a two day discrepancy in opening date.)  Both sources agree that huge barbeque celebrating the opening of the bridge occurred on August 24, 1852.  The bridge consisted of stone piers in the river bed with large wood towers and wood trusses, consuming 250 acres of pine forest to construct.  The finished structure was about 800 feet long and 234 feet high above the riverbed.  This bridge was designed by Silas Seymour, at the time Chief Engineer of the Erie.  
 
This bridge burned in the predawn hours of Wednesday, May 6, 1875.  
 
Four days after the fire, the Erie contracted with Watson Manufacturing Company of Patterson, New Jersey to construct a replacement bridge.  The work got under way so quickly that there were  rumors that the Erie Railroad had the fire set as the quickest way to get rid of a bridge that was becoming inadequate for the increasing train loads, and not incidentally in those days before the use of creosote, beginning to rot.  
 
The designer of the replacement bridge was George S. Morison.  He was at that time Principal Assistant Engineer for the Erie Railroad, working under Octave Chanute, who was the Erie's Chief Engineer.  Both of these men are well known 19th century pioneers in engineering.  Morison was principle designer of ten bridges over the Missouri River and three over the Upper Mississippi.  His crowning achievement and his last major bridge was the first bridge over the Lower Mississippi River.  This bridge was formally named the Memphis Bridge, but has been known as the Frisco Bridge for most of its existence.  It opened in 1892, and until 1930 was the southern-most bridge of any kind across the Mississippi River, and for over 20 years was the only bridge across the lower river.  It is still in service today as a BNSF mainline structure and has no clearance restrictions, with only short heavy cars, not including 286,000 pound cars in unit train service, prohibited.
 
Back to the Letchworth Bridge:  It appears that the design of the 1875 replacement structure was compromised by the necessity that it be constructed and placed in service as quickly as practical.  
 
Quoting:  "Morison also stated that the final design for the new bridge was “prepared in the hurry of a pressing necessity", and that he and the other engineers "were obliged to conform in a measure to the plan of the original timber structure." For example the masonry that had been laid for the original bridge made them extend the width of each of the six towers from the desired 25 or 30 feet to a full 50 feet. But Morison and his crew proceeded quickly, the last tower being erected in only eleven days.  The Bridge was ready for testing by July 31st, and had only cost half as much as the original.”  The testing consisted or running increasing numbers of engines across the bridge.  Although not stated here, from reading about the first moves of engines onto the Memphis Bridge, deflections and other structure movements were probably being measured as these engines were operated over the bridge.
 
This replacement bridge is described as being 819 feet long.  It is likely that the height is the same 234 feet mentioned for the wood bridge.  It is also likely that the 800 feet length mentioned for the wood bridge was an approximation, and the actual length was the same 819 feet as that of the steel bridge.
 
As an aside, the Erie Railroad was built with 6’-0” gauge tracks.  The conversion to standard gauge took place on July 29, 1881, according to information found on the wnyrails.org web site.  The track on both the original bridge and its 1875 replacement would therefore have been 6’-0” gauge.  
 
From the description of the bridge in the New York DOT information, the superstructure elements were replaced in 1903.  This replacement superstructure consisted of three spans of pin connected deck trusses and ten spans of deck plate girders, with the girders over the towers and the trusses between them.  The difference is clear when looking at pre and post 1903 photographs.  The original superstructure was all trusses.
 
This 1875/1903 bridge is the one still in service.  Currently it has a 10 mph speed limit and a 273,000 pound (for four axle cars) weight restriction,  based on some New York DOT information.  A speed restriction on this bridge is of long standing, although formerly less severe.  In a 1948 Erie employee timetable, the speed restriction was 20 mph for engines and 30 mph for the rest of the train.  
 
Even after replacement, trains are not going to be flying over the structure at high speeds.  The NY state application is talking about 35 mph, due to the curves.  Based on the same 1948 timetable, that is about as good as you can get on the curve at the west end of the bridge.  


« Last Edit: Oct 20th, 2010, 5:23am by George_Harris » Logged
Lfire83
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #1 on: Oct 26th, 2010, 11:01pm »
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I missed this thread! Thanks for the update

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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #2 on: Oct 30th, 2010, 11:58pm »
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Chasing the subject a little more, I found a track chart for the line from the Conrail era on www.multimodalways.org.  When I copied the link and tried to see if it worked, it would not.  I got to the page the track chart was on by a search of Conrail track charts erie line.  
 
Looking at the track chart, the curve east of the bridge is a compound 3d15m, 2d15m, 3d00m, and the curve west of the bridge 7d00m.  For the 7 degree curve, a speed of 30 to 35 mph is about it for freight.  Since this curve is right off the end of the bridge, the speed on the new bridge cannot be more.  A slight improvement in the curve would be possible with the bridge moved south, but not much improvement.


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Lfire83
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #3 on: Oct 31st, 2010, 10:27pm »
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Viewing the line segment from aerial images and topographical maps, you would think NS could cough up a little cash and realign the grade on the northwest approach, as it is just vacant rolling land. Whoever owns it could make a quick buck and NS would have a much easier approach to the new bridge.

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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #4 on: Dec 2nd, 2010, 10:13pm »
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And we see that the bridge is being very carefully monitored.
 
http://www.clevelandelectriclabs.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Norfolk-Southern-Project-Web-Version.pdf
 
This paper talks about placing strain and temperature sensors on some members of the bridge to detect cracking.
 
"78 surface mounted strain sensors
"22 temperature sensors
"1 single axis optical accelerometer
 
All these sending signals to provide a structural warning system directly tied to the NS dipatching center for this line.  
 
A traffic volume of "up to 14 trains per day" was also mentioned.


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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #5 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 10:14pm »
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on Oct 31st, 2010, 10:27pm, Lfire83 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Viewing the line segment from aerial images and topographical maps, you would think NS could cough up a little cash and realign the grade on the northwest approach, as it is just vacant rolling land. Whoever owns it could make a quick buck and NS would have a much easier approach to the new bridge.

In fact, looking at the USGS map, it appears that the line did in the past have a much better horizontal alingment on the northwest approach.  Would love to know the realitiy, first if it was, and second, if it was, then why was it changed.


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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #6 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 10:44pm »
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Got a look at a NS employee timetable.  The line is now single track with sidings at approximately 20 mile intervals.  Not as bad as it sounds, as the sidings very in length from 2.5 miles up to 5 miles, so they really function as short sections of double track in place, although with a 25 mph speed limit.
 
Line speed is 50 mph.  Here are the speed limits in the vicinity of the bridge.  
 
359.1 and back for a considerable distance:  50 mph
359.1 to 360.5:  40 mph
360.5 to 361.5:  30 mph
361.5 to 362.1:  10 mph - the bridge
362.1 to 362.6:  30 mph
362.6 and ahead for a considerable distance:  50 mph
 
Weight limit (for a four axle car):  286,000 pounds, except
273,000 pounds between 351.6 and 368.3
 
That weight is really pushing it in my opinion.  No wonder they have the bridge thoroughly instrumented.  


« Last Edit: Jan 17th, 2012, 9:55pm by George_Harris » Logged
Henry
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #7 on: Jan 2nd, 2011, 12:53pm »
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on Jan 1st, 2011, 10:14pm, George_Harris wrote:       (Click here for original message)

In fact, looking at the USGS map, it appears that the line did in the past have a much better horizontal alingment on the northwest approach.  Would love to know the realitiy, first if it was, and second, if it was, then why was it changed.

 
George,
 
I recently studied that alignment in aerial photos. It was realigned, in the 1880's I believe, to reduce the westbound grade (vertical alignment) from the gorge to Castile. Some helpers were still needed until heavier power became available in the early 1900's.
 
That bridge is a special place for me. In July of 1997 I poured my dad's ashes off of that bridge. He and I had visited there several times in the past. CR obliged us with two westbounds, one just before we went out onto the bridge and one just as we were ready to walk off it. The ladies panicked and double-timed it off the bridge as soon as the head end rounded the curve on the east side of the bridge, but the rest of us knew we had plenty of time. A lifelong railfan, dad would have appreciated the RR's apparent send-off.
 
I couldn't help it, I rode the last car off of the bridge  
 
Henry


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scottychaos
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #8 on: Jan 11th, 2011, 12:45pm »
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This alignment mystery was solved on "the other forum" a year ago.
short story, the tracks were probably moved due to "bad" or somehow unstable land on the original route..could be swampy land, quicksand, etc..
it is known the BR&P-B&O tracks had issues with the ground in this region.
 
but whatever the specific reason, the railroad thought it was worth it to create a new route that *looks* worse on paper (worse curves) but obviously must be better in reality..it seems unlikely NS will change it.
 
check it out:
http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=128&t=65012&start=60
 
I agree with the poster in that thread who suggested the reason for the move was probably *not* grades..since the topo maps show no grade to speak of..its quite flat through that original alignment.  
 
Scot
 
 


« Last Edit: Jan 11th, 2011, 12:48pm by scottychaos » Logged
Henry
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #9 on: Jan 11th, 2011, 5:46pm »
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Actually, it drops about 100 feet between the point the new alignment diverged from the old one and the bridge. The longer route ought to have an easier grade. The relocation was part of the Buffalo Division double tracking project and was completed in the summer of 1882 according to a Bill Burt article on the River Line.
 
I just don't recall where I read it, but it was documented that helpers were needed for the grade to Castile and there was even a helper pocket there. It was written that even after the line relocation helpers were still occasionally needed to make the grade with the heaviest trains. Maybe I'll find it again some day.
 
I read that other thread and frankly I don't see that the mystery was solved there at all.
 
Henry


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scottychaos
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #10 on: Jan 11th, 2011, 7:28pm »
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I really dont think an excess grade could be the answer..
its such a short distance, (less than a mile)..the topo maps show nothing, and 100 feet is meaningless to a railroad..a small fill could easily take care of that..
 
has to be something wrong with the land itself..
there are known issues with the landscape all over this area, as far as railroads are concerned..thats the only reason for the new alignment that makes any sense.."because of grades" just doesn't fit the landscape.
 
 
Scot


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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #11 on: Jan 12th, 2011, 3:36am »
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I think grade was exactly the reason.  
 
Actually, 100 feet of rise is a very big deal to a railroad.  Rate of grade is also a very big deal.  Another big deal in freight railroading is short grades up and down in sucession.  A very common quick and dirty measurement of line quality, particularly as it relates to handling freight is the total amount of rise and fall in a given segment.  
 
The amount of rise here was not that great, but it was, on the original line, at a rate of about 1.00%, possibly more.  That is a guess, based on topo maps.  The current alignment has a lower grade, 0.66% as found on the track chart, and eliminated one intermediate crest.  
 
To eliminate any doubt that grade was the reason, go a few miles north to Silver Spring.  There you will see where the additional curves and some additional length were introduced into the line to go around a sag rather than across it.  Here the post-relocation grade is 0.48%.  I did not attempt to work out the former grade from the topo maps.  
 
Another word of explanation:  The Erie was noted as a low grade freight hauler.  The key word here is "low grade"  Having low grades made the operation of long heavy freight trains more economical.  This was the Erie's bread and butter.  
 
Historically, the railroad alignment concept has been to, where practical, go around obstacles rather that to go up and down or down and up to cross them.


« Last Edit: Jan 12th, 2011, 7:54am by George_Harris » Logged
George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #12 on: Nov 29th, 2011, 6:27pm »
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There is a little more kicking around on the bridge replacement:
www.buffalonews.com/incoming/article651143.ece
It appears to be coming back to life.
 
As seems typical with many of these things, everybody involved has wonderful ideas of what they want and think should be done while keeping their own checkbook firmly closed.  
 
The big issue in the realm of public discussion is having some sort of pedestrial passage across the gorge.  Therefore there is quite a bit of discussion concerning keeping the old bridge or providing a walkway on the replacement.  It stated in the article that NS had offered to give the  bridge to the Office of State Parks and Historic Preservation for use as an observation platform when the new bridge is completed, but the offer was turned down.
 
Numbers kicked around in the article were:
$1 million ot take down the existing bridge - by NS
$1 to $2 million to redeck it and turn it into a walkway, which is probably a pretty good number as it was stated as coming from the project manager for doing the same to the Poughkeepsie Bridge.
$39 million for the new bridge with $17.75 from US DOT, $17.75 from NS and CP, and $3.5 from New York State.
 
At least after seeing a rendering of the old bridge and the proposed bridge sisde by side the conssensus seemed to be that the replacement looked good and the scene was not improved by keeping the old one.  
 
The height of dingbattiness in the article has to be in this statement:
Quote:
Tim Tielman of Campaign for Greater Buffalo suggested Norfolk Southern had a responsibility to retain the bridge since it operates a private overpass in a public park and is seeking state and federal funds to replace it.

Private overpass


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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #13 on: Dec 14th, 2011, 1:14am »
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See page 7 in the attached for a view of the proposed replacement structure
 
http://www.gbnrtc.org/fileadmin/content/pdf/Freight/Portageville_Bridge_Presentation.pdf .


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Lfire83
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #14 on: Jan 17th, 2012, 5:10pm »
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I just now noticed the NS powerpoint link... anyone else see they used an Atlas model tank car to illustrate the type of traffic that moves over the line?  

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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #15 on: Jan 17th, 2012, 9:54pm »
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on Jan 17th, 2012, 5:10pm, Lfire83 wrote:       (Click here for original message)
I just now noticed the NS powerpoint link... anyone else see they used an Atlas model tank car to illustrate the type of traffic that moves over the line?  

I had looked through this several times without realizing that this was a model at all.  For those who don't want to seach, it is on p. 14 of the power point.


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Matthew_L
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #16 on: Jan 24th, 2012, 8:26pm »
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on Jan 11th, 2011, 12:45pm, scottychaos wrote:       (Click here for original message)
This alignment mystery was solved on "the other forum" a year ago.
short story, the tracks were probably moved due to "bad" or somehow unstable land on the original route..could be swampy land, quicksand, etc..
it is known the BR&P-B&O tracks had issues with the ground in this region.

 
I agree with George's assessment that the grade, rather than the soft ground, was the reason for the realignment. The Erie built the River Line nearby in 1911 on some rather soft ground... as a bypass around the original mainline... which had a 1% grade westbound near Andover.    


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ClydeDET
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #17 on: Jan 26th, 2012, 2:30pm »
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Soft ground can be dealt with - consider the Great Dismal Swamp crossing. Adverse grade is coninuing grief forever.

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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #18 on: Dec 17th, 2012, 2:25pm »
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One more step in the glacial pace that seems to have become the norm for any large project.  There is an announcement of a public hearing to be held on January 10 in the "Genesse River Restaurant and Reception Center at 134 North Main St. in Mount Morris."  The article states that railroad officials will be available to answer questions at 4:30 and the hearing itself will start at 6:00.  
 
http://thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_dbc343f4-460d-11e2-a6d1-001a4bcf887a.html
 
This is in The Daily News, "serving Genesse, Wyoming, and Orleans (NY) counties."  The "NY" in parenthesis is theirs not mine.  The address appears to be Batavia, NY.  Since I know little about upstate New York geography, all these locations are meaningless to me.  
 
Quote:
Construction could begin in 2013 or 2014 and would take at least three years, officials said. The Portageville entrance at Letchworth State Park would be closed to vehicle traffic to accommodate the work.

 
Other information from the article is an estimated cost of $69 million, a comment that bridge construction costs have more than tripled since 2000, and Marcellus shale development will cause increases in traffic.
 
It appears that the offset alignment has been settled on for the location of the replacement.


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George_Harris
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Re: Portageville High Bridge-Replacement? Letchworth Park, NY
 
« Reply #19 on: May 10th, 2013, 3:57am »
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I started this thread 2 1/2 years ago.  Looks like for now every six months is about often enough to bring it up.
 
Another step:
https://www.dot.ny.gov/portagevillebridge
(the bridge location, milepost 361.66
And here is the information:
 
Quote:
Portageville Bridge Project  
Project I.D. No. 4935.79 , Contract Number    
 
Project Overview
 
Norfolk Southern Railway will replace the Portageville Viaduct, which carries their Southern Tier Rail Line over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park.
. . . .
 
A public hearing was held on January 10, 2013 at the Genesee River Restaurant and Reception Center, 134 North Main Street, Mount Morris, NY 14510.  Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern representatives were on hand and graphic displays were available.  Displays and presentations from the hearing are available on the Community Outreach page of this website.
 
The public comment period for the Draft EIS closed on February 1, 2013.  NYSDOT is in the process of reviewing and responding to the comments received.  These responses, in addition to a selection of the preferred alternative, will be published in a Final EIS, which will be posted here.
. . . .
 
Project Status
• The current status of the project is In Development.
•The Bid Opening is expected to be in Spring 2013.
•Construction is expected to begin in Summer 2013.
•Construction is expected to be completed in Winter 2016/2017.
 
Cost of the Project
The DOT project cost is approximately $67,500,000.  
For additional information on this Project, please see the NYWorks.gov web site.
 
This project receives funding from the following sources:  
Federal: No  
State : Yes  
Local : No  
 
The scheduled dates shown are approximations only. For more detailed information, please utilize the "Contact Us" information provided.


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