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AASHTO Journal

NYDOT, Norfolk Southern, and Others Build $75M Railroad Bridge

A new $75 million railroad bridge spanning what's known as the "Grand Canyon of the East" is the result of a two-year public-private construction partnership between Class I railroad operator Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, and the Federal Highway Administration

This new single-track "arch" structure, named the Genesee Arch Bridge, crosses the 235-foot-deep Genesee River Gorge and replaces a 19th-century-era bridge that restricted train speeds and rail car weights – limitations that created a major freight transportation "bottleneck," in the words of Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires.

"[This] successful partnership … demonstrates that big things can be accomplished when the private sector and the public sector work together to achieve common goals," he explained in a statement. "The new Genesee Arch Bridge is literally a bridge to the future."

060118ns2.jpgLocated between Buffalo and Binghamton on the railroad's Southern Tier Line, Squires noted that the 963-foot-long Genesee Arch Bridge connects New York businesses to markets in the Midwest and New England, trade with Canada, and access to New York City. After two years of construction, Norfolk Southern began operating trains over the new span last December; a span constructed just 75 feet south of where the old bridge used to stand.

"This new rail bridge is going to help modernize freight rail service and improve the safety and reliability of this critical connection," noted Paul Kara, acting commissioner of the NYDOT, during the bridge's "official" dedication ceremony on May 24.

New York State provided $15.5 million in funding for the bridge's design and construction, including a $2 million grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council plus $13.5 million in state and federal funds through NYDOT, while Norfolk Southern invested $59.5 million in the project, which also qualified for funding through the FHWA's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program due to reduced carbon emissions from freight rail service when compared to shipping goods by truck.

The beefiness of the new bridge also enables Norfolk Southern to transport rail cars loaded to the industry standard 286,000 pounds across it, whereas when crossing the old iron truss bridge – built in 1875 by the Erie Railroad – weights had to be reduced 13,000 pounds below the standard, with train speeds restricted to 10 mph. Trains crossing the new bridge are now operating at up to 30 mph with fully loaded cars, Norfolk Southern added.

Photo: Norfolk Southern

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