For more than five generations, visitors to Letchworth State Park have ignored "No trespassing" signs -- and, occasionally, freight trains -- to walk onto an iron-and-steel bridge and gaze 245 feet below into the tree-studded, Genesee River gorge.
That could soon end.
The owner, claiming the 136-year-old bridge has become obsolete, wants to tear it down and build a modern, arched rail bridge 75 feet to the south.
Norfolk Southern, a major freight railroad that operates rail lines in the Southern Tier, offered to give the historic bridge to the Office of State Parks and Historic Preservation for use as an observation platform when the new bridge is completed, but the offer was turned down.
"We are not in the position to take on a big project," Parks Department spokesman Peter Brancato said, saying the cost would be prohibitive during tough fiscal times.
So, Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific Railway, which also hauls freight on the 819-foot-long bridge, plan to spend $1 million to dismantle it.
The railroad has rejected maintaining the old bridge or putting a pedestrian walkway on the one it hopes to build, saying that was outside its mission.
"The main idea is to move freight across the gorge, and I'm sure from a safety standpoint it just wouldn't be prudent for us," spokesman Davecq Pidgeon said.
Plans for the new bridge call for automatic gates to block public access.
Some preservationists think it would be shortsighted to get rid of the bridge, because of its popularity.
Jay DiLorenzo, president of Preservation League of New York State, said turning the bridge into a legal pedestrian overview could bring more people to the park, though the organization hasn't taken an official position.
"It would seem if visitors to the Letchworth park are using that bridge to get the best view of the gorge, it could bring significant heritage tourism," DiLorenzo said.
I have never heard that 1875 structure being called the portageville bridge. Do a little research. On the east side of the bridge was the Portage Station. It has historically always been refered to as the Portage Bridge. Portage and Portageville are two separate areas. Portageville is a mile from the bridge. On the east side still stands an old highway marker showing the name Portage.
The info is incorrect. Up to a dozen trains run over the trestle every day.
Status says closed and scheduled for replacement due to weight restrictions...
This appears to be a fairly heavy train on the bridge yesterday...http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=368193&nseq=12