A large swath of long barren, former industrial property on the one-time Bethlehem Steel property has been transformed into the region's newest development site, thanks to a multi-year effort to relocate a set of railroad tracks from the edge of Route 5 to deeper inside the land.
The $4.4 million project saw two miles of rail tracks relocated and, in the process, more than 300 acres of land opened for development. The track project, which was christened Wednesday morning before a host of state and local dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, is already responsible for Welded Tube USA Inc. building a $40 million plant on the property.
Poloncarz said the relocated rail line was a key incentive that convinced Welded Tube to open its plant in Lackawanna instead of other states.
The project was overseen by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and county development officials.
"This represents far more than just a two-year project to relocate tracks," Poloncarz said. "The future looks brighter because of this project."
Duffy credited local officials as well as private-sector groups like National Grid, who helped to finance the project, for making the relocation a reality.
"These things happen because of team work," Duffy said. "That we are seeing a transformation of the Bethlehem site is something that didn't happen on its own."
Poloncarz said his office, along with the ECIDA and Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, has been fielding inquiries about the Bethlehem Steel property. Some talks are more serious than others, he admitted.
Citing its location along Route 5 and now inter-modal status with truck and rail possibilities, Poloncarz said interest is just beginning to peak.
"Welded Tube made it easier," Poloncarz said. "It is always easier when you have that first company in place. I think this could be a perfect location for other Canadian companies."