Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First trains roll over Portageville Bridge

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On Dec. 11, 2017, Norfolk Southern general merchandise train 36T became the first to cross the new Portageville Bridge. On Dec. 11, 2017, Norfolk Southern general merchandise train 36T became the first to cross the new Portageville Bridge. Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern began operating trains across its new Portageville Bridge on Dec. 11, following two years of construction.

The new 963-foot steel arch, single-track bridge was constructed across the 235-foot-deep Genesee River Gorge in Letchworth State Park and is located on the Norfolk Southern Southern Tier Line. 

"This is a very exciting day for Norfolk Southern and for the future of freight rail service in New York's Southern Tier region," said James A. Squires, chairman, president and CEO. "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 $75-million project was funded through a public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The design and construction budget for the bridge project included $15.5 million provided through 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.

Norfolk Southern says the bridge will speed up train traffic and enable Norfolk Southern to run heavier rail car loads over the line, eliminating a major rail bottleneck for freight shippers. The old iron truss bridge it replaces, built in 1875 by the Erie Railroad, was unable to support modern freight rail needs – car weights had to be reduced 13,000 pounds below the standard, while train speed was restricted to 10 mph. Trains crossing the new bridge will operate at up to 30 mph. When construction began on the bridge in 2015, Norfolk Southern said the bridge would 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.

Norfolk Southern explains that among New York-based businesses benefitting from the new bridge are 10 shortline railroads that service and connect local industries to Norfolk Southern's network.

The bridge's arch design minimizes the railroad's environmental footprint in the Genesee River Gorge and complements the scenic vistas found in Letchworth State Park.

"The new Portageville Bridge complements the beauty of Letchworth State Park while providing safer, more efficient freight rail service," said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. "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 continue our drive to strengthen and modernize transportation infrastructure across the state for generations to come."