The Genesee Arch Bridge, located in Letchworth State Park in Livingston County, New York, is a steel arch railroad bridge that spans the Genesee River. At this site, it is the third bridge. After the original timber bridge burned down in 1875, an iron bridge was built in its place, which lasted until 2017. The Genesee Arch Bridge was the first true steel arch bridge built for the railroad industry since the 1940s.
Norfolk Southern Railway revealed intentions to build a new bridge roughly 75 feet south of the 1875 bridge on November 29, 2011. The State of New York denied Norfolk Southern’s offer to use the 1875 bridge as a tourist viewing platform for the Upper Falls, claiming a lack of funds. The state authorized a steel arch design for the replacement bridge in late 2014, with a cost estimate of $71 million.
On October 27, 2015, work on the project began. After the auto access route to Portageville Park was closed for the winter in 2015, it remained blocked until the bridge project was completed in 2018. By late 2016, surveying work for the new bridge’s foundation had begun. The main arch began construction in March 2017.
The project’s building team faced numerous obstacles. Because the new bridge was carved into the faces of two sheer cliffs, the site was extremely difficult to access. Workers used cranes to access the arch foundations 100 to 120 feet below the gorge walls because there was no direct access to the river and no direct access to the foundation level. The team was concerned about damaging the old bridge, which was only a few feet away, when it came to rock blasting. To keep rail traffic moving on the old bridge during construction, the crew had to apply regulated, close-in blasting and conservation vibration limitations.
The first train crossed the new bridge on December 11, 2017. On the morning of March 20, 2018, the last pieces of the 1875 bridge were dismantled. On May 24, 2018, Norfolk Southern officially named the new bridge the “Genesee Arch Bridge.” The arch design of the bridge reduces the railroad’s environmental imprint in the Genesee River while framing a stunning vista of the valley. Trains may safely pass the bridge at speeds up to 30 mph, and the approach embankments on both sides are wider.
- Construction start: October 27, 2015
- Construction end: December 11, 2017
- Carries: Norfolk Southern railroad traffic
- Crosses: Genesee River
- Design/Style: Deck arch bridge
- Total length: 963 feet
- Clearance below: 240 feet
- Address: Park Rd
- Town: Castile
- State: New York
- GPS: Lat 42.57779 Lng -78.04941
- Parking notes: There is a small parking lot on Park Rd, just south of the bridge. The parking lot holds about 18 cars and allows visitors to easily access the bridge. You can also get to the bridge from Gorge Trail after parking at the large lots along Upper Middle Falls Rd.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE