The Portageville Bridge which carries the Norfolk Southern railroad over the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park was built in 1875 after a fire destroyed the former wooden bridge. The steel frame bridge, which towers over the river gorge and its waterfalls, has become a beloved feature of the park and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. But a 2008 inspection by Modjeski and Masters revealed structural deficiencies, and it was determined that the current bridge should either be rehabilitated or replaced. The question is what to do with the old bridge once a new one is built. State officials are now soliciting comments from the public on three different options…
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has already been prepared and construction alternatives for a new bridge have been narrowed down to three.
OPTION 1: Do nothing…
Since the existing bridge is near the end of its useful life, this is not really an option. But the State requires a “No Action” alternative to serve as sort of a baseline from which to evaluate all other options. Here’s a view (shown above) of the existing bridge looking south from the Middle/Upper Falls Picnic Area. And another view (below) looking from Park Road on the west side of the Genesse River…
OPTION 2: Remove the old bridge and build a new one…
The new bridge would be set on a parallel alignment south of the existing bridge. It would also be of comparable dimensions — 485 feet long and about 245 feet above the river. But the new bridge would not have any piers set into the river. It would instead be a spandrel-braced arch bridge spanning over the gorge with the supports located on the east and west banks of the river (shown above). The use of an arch bridge could provide a more expansive view of the surrounding landscape.
Here’s the view from Park Road again, this time with the new bridge design…
OPTION 3: Keep the old bridge and build a new one next to it…
This option may seem crazy, but let’s consider it for a moment. The following excerpt is taken from the DEIS :
Point taken. However, the study also mentions an intriguing idea to convert the old bridge into a pedestrian walkway, and the benefits of doing so:
Donald Pevsner, transportation lawyer and former columnist for Universal Press Syndicate, is urging the public and law-makers to take this option seriously. He points to the successful Walkway Over the Hudson as an example where increased tourism income from that landmark structure is now revitalizing the local economy of Poughkeepsie, NY.
I have to admit, I’m torn. On the one hand I think this 135 year-old engineering marvel should remain for future generations to see. Plus, a new, safe walkway for pedestrians would be really amazing! On the other hand, I’m not so in love with the way the new bridge and the old bridge look together, side by side. What do you all think?
Submit Your Comments:
NYSDOT will select a final alternative based on the findings of the DEIS and public comments. Comments are due Friday, February 1, 2013 at the address below:
Raymond F. Hessinger, P.E.
Director, Freight & Passenger Rail Bureau
New York State Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road, POD 54
Albany, New York 12232
A public hearing on the project is also scheduled for January 10 at 6 p.m. at the Genesee River Restaurant and Reception Center in Mount Morris (with a snow date set for 1/17 at the same time and location). Renderings and maps will be displayed and project representatives will be on hand to answer questions before the hearing, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Tags: demolition, Genesee River, Letchworth State Park, National Register of Historic Places, New York State Historic Preservation Office, NYSDOT, Portageville Rail Bridge, Walkway Over the Hudson
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 8:00 am and is filed under Rochester Images, Rochester News, Train/Railroad Stuff, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.