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most entirely of trackage rights and haulage agree- ments.


Removing


the MITCH GOLDMAN


THIS PHOTO ILLUSTRATION (left) shows how the new Portageville steel arch bridge will appear. As seen from a Letchworth State Park viewing area (above), a westbound Norfolk Southern freight with ex-Conrail power tiptoes across the ancient bridge over the falls on October 5, 2008. Viewed from the south (below), westbound NS 23K crosses the gorge behind Union Pacific power on April 10, 2010.


weight, were rerouted to customers on the Southern Tier east of Hornell over the newly- opened line under a haulage agreement. NS has spent a lot of money on the Southern Tier in the past decade, upgrading bridges to


286,000 lb. standards, single-tracking the re- maining double track section between Waverly and Binghamton and adding Centralized Traf- fic Control, and making improvements to the Binghamton yard as well as participating in joint capacity improvements with the Susquehanna and CPR. NS has also re- vitalized the former Erie Lackawanna Bison Yard in Buffalo, making it a crew change point, an automotive distribution center with spots for 50 cars, an inter- modal yard which makes 37,000 lifts per year, and the site of a Just-In-Time Rail Center, which moves automotive parts originating within a 150-mile radius to Mexico. In addition, the entire route is cleared for double stacks, as it has been since the 1980s. That last point is an important one.


NS says that the Tier will be a key link in a “new push for expanded intermodal service” between the Buffalo gateway and the Port of New York and New Jer- sey. While the eastern section of the Tier, between Binghamton and Port Jervis, N.Y., is being operated under lease from NS by the Central New York Railroad, the route from Buffalo to the North Jer- sey terminal district, once used by the upstart Susquehanna to take double stack traffic away from Conrail, is still intact. Currently, NS serves the North Jersey ports over the ex-Conrail main line through Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, and on a north-south route via Harris- burg-Scranton-Binghamton-Schenectady- Montreal-Toronto. The latter consists al-


MIKE STELLPFLUG 21


Portageville bottleneck will allow traffic, especially inter- modal and automotive, from Toronto and western Canada to take a shortcut to the Port of New York and New Jersey, which will encourage growth in that corridor. The new bridge will be a graceful, ballasted deck steel arch spanning the gorge with no intermediate supports, built just south of, and paral- lel to, the existing structure. While it will be designed to permit 60 m.p.h. operation, trains will be limited to 35 due to curvature on both ap- proaches. The railroad had considered realigning the right of way and river cross- ing south of Portageville and well outside of the state park boundary, which would have eliminated several curves and allowed higher speeds. This option would have re- quired building about 41/2 miles of new track and the construction of three bridges, including a Genesee River crossing over a mile long -- at an estimated cost of nearly $237 million. The railroad


decided early on that this would not be a feasi- ble or cost-effective solution. The $39 million Portageville Bridge Replace-


ment Project is a public-private partnership: NS and tenant Canadian Pacific will contribute a total of $17.75 million for construction, while the New York State Department of Transporta- tion has provided $3.5 million for preliminary engineering and final design. The remaining $17.75 million has been requested in the form of a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER III) discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Transporta- tion. The grant application was submitted on October 27, 2011. The Portageville Bridge is not only a popular


railfan photo location — it also provides an ex- cellent view of the gorge, and trespassing by park visitors has been a perennial problem. The new bridge and the adjoining right of way will be fenced and automated gates, which will remain closed until activated by an approach- ing train, will be installed at each end of the span. The railroad had offered the old bridge to New York’s Office of State Parks and Historic Preservation for rehabilitation as a pedestrian overlook, but was turned down due to a lack of money to repair and maintain the structure. So, it will be demolished upon the completion of the new bridge in 2014. Assuming that the TIGER III money is grant-


ed, construction is set to begin in May 2013 pending the completion of the environmental re- view, property acquisition, permitting, final de- sign work, and selection of contractors. So if you haven’t already, get your pictures now! And please . . . no trespassing. —WALT LANKENAU


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