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Future uncertain for Letchworth bridge

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The stunning view from the original Portageville railroad bridge helped convince William Pryor Letchworth to buy land around the Genesee River Gorge. He later donated the land to New York State, and it became the heart of Letchworth State Park.

The current railroad bridge, built in 1875 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a popular vantage point to admire the gorge, though that's technically trespassing.

The existing structure is at the end of its useful life, however, and necessary weight and speed restrictions delay train traffic. State officials and Norfolk Railroad want to build a new bridge, which means the current bridge would be dismantled or preserved, depending on what state officials decide.

"It's not an easy question to answer," says Caitlin Meives, a preservation planner with the Landmark Society of Western New York.

The Landmark Society asked the state to better involve the public in the project, but otherwise has not taken a position on the bridge's future.

To save the bridge, the state would need to find a new owner to do rehabilitation and maintenance. The state Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, which would be a natural fit, told the DOT that taking over the bridge is not financially feasible.

The state discusses the proposed options in a draft environmental impact statement, which is available at https://www.dot.ny.gov/portagevillebridge. And at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 10, the department and the railroad company will hold a joint public hearing, preceded by an informational session at 4:30 p.m.

The hearing and informational session will be held at the Genesee River Restaurant & Reception Center, 134 North Main Street, Mount Morris.

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