A short-line railroad serving the former Bethlehem Steel property on Bethlehem's South Side landed a $1.3 million state grant Tuesday for a new distribution center.
The Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England Railroad will build a facility to connect trains and delivery trucks, according to the office of Gov. Ed Rendell. Rendell released $10 million Tuesday for 11 freight railroad upgrade projects across the state.
State officials did not know the full price tag or schedule for the new center. Railroad President J. Michael Zaia and other railroad officials could not be reached for comment.
The Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England began as a switching service owned by Bethlehem Steel Corp., which at one point owned 11 short-line railroads in three states. The railroad is now owned by International Steel Group, which bought Bethlehem Steel out of bankruptcy earlier this year.
Since the shutdown of Bethlehem Steel's local steelmaking operations, the line has broadened its focus to include other goods.
Lumber, plastic, steel and agricultural products now pass through the yard, according to the company.
The railroad interchanges with two major lines, the Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific railways. New rail connections added last year allow the railroad to handle 70,000 cars a year, up from fewer than 25,000 in 2001, officials said.
The railroad promotes Bethlehem as an ideal distribution hub, two miles from Interstate 78 and easily accessible to major Northeast cities. Shipments into the hub can be loaded onto trucks for highway distribution, while loads rolling out can connect to ports across the country.
Local development leaders say the railroad will bring supplies to future tenants of the Bethlehem Commerce Center, a massive business and industrial complex proposed for part of the former Steel land.
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