A locomotive smashed through a banner as part of the official opening of a new rail line on the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna Wednesday.
State and County officials say the new line should spur redevelopment of the former industrial site. Along with installing nearly two miles of track, the project involved removing old rail lines along Route 5 that blocked access to the site.
Lt. Governor Robert Duffy says having the rail line open will help transform one of the largest brownfield sites in upstate New York. More than $4 million in state and county funding paid for the project.
"You're on the waterfront. You have great infrastructure. Everybody is working hard to fill this site up and I'm confident with the leadership you see in Buffalo, it will happen," Duffy said.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the improvements make the former Bethlehem Steel site a truly intermodal transportation center, with access to rail, water, and interstate highways.
Poloncarz says without the new line, Welded Tube of Canada would not be investing $50 million in a new plant.
"This project is in place because we realized if we built it, they would come. Welded Tube was the first example of that," Poloncarz said. "But now that there is somebody here, number two, number three [and] number four are knocking on our door. We just have to ensure that we complete that deal so we let them in."
Welded Tube began production last week with about 30 workers. The company expects to more than triple employment when fully operational.