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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way
New York DOT releases draft environmental report on Portageville Bridge project

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) last week announced that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the replacement of the Portageville Bridge over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park is available for public review.

Norfolk Southern Railway now will move forward with final design for an arch structure that will be safer and more modern, yet complement the natural beauty of the state park and gorge, NYSDOT officials said in a prepared statement. NS will need to acquire a small amount of land where the bridge will be built. Construction on the $69 million project could begin in 2013 or 2014 and take three years to complete.

The existing bridge, which was built in 1875 after a fire destroyed the former wooden structure, was identified in the 2009 New York State Rail Plan as one of the state's 10 most significant rail bottlenecks. NYSDOT has contributed about $3 million toward design costs and has secured $2.5 million for construction costs. The balance of project costs would be covered by NS and possibly by additional public funds, NYSDOT officials said.

"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., NS' chief engineer of bridges and structures. "Now is the time to complete this project as demand for rail service is rising. Modernizing the bridge is vital to ensuring affordable and efficient rail access for shippers and short lines that rely on the Southern Tier."

A joint NYSDOT/NS public hearing on the project will be held on Jan. 10 in Mount Morris, N.Y. Based on the DEIS findings, NYSDOT will accept written and oral comments from the public until Feb. 1, 2013. The department also is soliciting comments about the fate of the existing structure after the new bridge is in operation. The bridge, which is on the National Historic Register, could be preserved or demolished, NYSDOT officials said.

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