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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a record of decision for the design and construction of a new Portageville Bridge in Letchworth State Park along Norfolk Southern Railway's Southern Tier Line, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.Built in 1875, the bridge spans Portage and Genesee Falls, N.Y. A new $71 million bridge will be constructed south of the existing structure over the Genesee River.The FHWA approval completes the last step of the project's environmental review and enables NS to move forward with implementing a construction plan for an arch structure. Construction is slated to begin later this year and take about three years to complete.Representatives from nine federal and state agencies were involved in the environmental review process: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, FHWA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.NYSDOT contributed $3 million toward design costs and secured $12.5 million in state and federal funds for construction work. NS will cover the remainder of project costs."A new improved Portageville Bridge will enhance NS’ ability to provide safe, reliable and efficient freight transportation to New York State and New England," said NS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman in a press release. "We appreciate the efforts of the NYSDOT and our other public partners in their quick approvals to move the project to this point."In 2009, the bridge was identified in the New York State Rail Plan as one of the 10 most significant rail bottlenecks in the state. Two years later, the Regional Economic Development Council identified the bridge replacement in its five-year strategic plan as one key way to address economic growth barriers.The FHWA approval is "a critical milestone" in efforts to build a modern arch bridge to carry freight along the important stretch of rail, said Cuomo."By receiving the federal government's approval we can now move forward with this new project, which will replace the existing bridge and better incorporate it into the beautiful surroundings of Letchworth State Park," he said.
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