A new road to access the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna will cost Erie County an estimated $2.4 million for engineering work and construction.
The road would provide access to a welded tube factory targeted to open in August, but county officials believe it would help open up hundreds of acres to future industrial development.
“We all very strongly share a desire to see manufacturing come back to the Bethlehem Steel property after 30 years,” Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe told county legislators on Thursday.
The construction of the road is part of a package of economic development efforts that the state and county have pledged toward redeveloping the former Bethlehem Steel site and convincing a Canadian company, Welded Tube, to build a new factory on 45 acres there.
The company, which plans to invest $50 million into a new facility that will supply pipe to the energy industry, has also received approval from the Erie County Development Industrial Agency for tax breaks worth about $7.7 million during a 10-year period, as well as state incentives and an infrastructure grant.
The Welded Tube facility is expected to employ 121 people once all phases of the project are complete.
The County Legislature on Thursday authorized spending up to $499,000 on engineering work by Wendel Co. Architects and Engineers on the road and infrastructure project. Construction of the road is estimated to cost $1.9 million, County Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo said. Money would come from funds the county borrows for large capital projects.
“Why is county money going into this? It’s a pattern in Erie County that we help open up industrial parks by often paying for what would be publicly owned infrastructure when we think the market can’t do it on its own,” Tobe said. “And on this property, the market would not do it on its own.”
The county also has $4.42 million in state funding to use to relocate railroad tracks in the industrial complex.
The road and rail infrastructure work, Tobe said, are steps in opening up more than 900 acres of the former Bethlehem Steel site to development. Most of the site is owned by Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc.
Tobe said the county is in discussions with other companies interested in locating to the Lackawanna site.
“The infrastructure that we’re proposing to you now, is not intended to serve just Welded Tube,” Tobe told legislators. “It’s to open up almost 1,000 acres of land.”
Legislator Lynne Dixon, a Hamburg Independence Party member whose district includes Lackawanna, said the city’s officials are concerned about a plan for Lackawanna to take over maintenance of the new road once it is complete.
Loffredo said county officials have met with Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski to discuss those concerns.
“Unfortunately, we have barely enough staff to plow our own roads, rather than add,” Loffredo said. “So we’re trying to help them as much as we can by building these roads to their standards.”