Mostly Complete, Falconer Rail Bridge To Offer Potential Of More Service

FALCONER – Completed through diverted Consolidated Funding Application awards, a new rail bridge, near the Cassadaga Creek in Falconer, is nearly complete and under budget. That’s according to Carl Belke, Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad president and chief operating officer.

The project was an emergency repair after the bridge was unable to pass a 2011 inspection for the minimum federal weight standard of 273,000 pounds. At that time, the railroad had secured funding for a $1.6 million tie replacement project, from the town of Carrollton to the city of Salamanca.

“After receiving permission from the New York State Department of Transportation, we moved the funding from replacement of the ties to what became construction of a new bridge, in Falconer,” Belke said.

The bridge replacement and diversion from the obsolete structure has been mostly complete and even had a train carrying dignitaries over it in November. The structure still needs to have a few minor components completed, such as a walkway built on the walkway. and the final restoration and replacement of an acre and a half of designated wetlands area, Belke said. The new bridge has a rating of 315,000 pounds, surpassing the current federal standards for rail traffic.

“The new infrastructure opens Jamestown and Falconer to a full, state-of-the-art rail system,” Belke said.

That work is expected to be complete in May 2014. Wetlands restoration will become a five-year observational process, to ensure proper growth and replacement, he said. Even with that aspect of the project, the final cost is planned to be $1.1 million, leaving about $500,000 of the original amount unused.

Belke said he would like to have that amount transferred back to the original intent, tie replacement along the rail line from Carrollton to Salamanca. That process will have to not only receive approval from the state transportation department but also the state’s Regional Economic Development Council for the Western Region, since they are the body that has initial control of Consolidated Funding Applications. Of the $500,000 remaining in the project account, roughly half is award funds from consolidated funding. The remaining are matching funds from the railroad, Belke said.

Should the reallocation of funds be approved, the railroad could replace as many as 5,000 ties, spread over a few lines, including Olean-Portville and between Oil City and Sugar Grove, Pa. The receipt of $1.08 million in grant awards from state transportation on a $1.35 million project would replace approximately 8,000 ties from Olean to the state border, near Portville. Another award from the Pennsylvania transportation department, for $840,000, will go to the replacement of approximately 12,000 ties over a 14-mile section on the Oil City Branch of the WNYPA.