Industrial park sign

Western States Asphalt could join this sign of businesses outside of Butte's Montana Connections industrial park west of town if expanded rail connections come through. 

A new liquid asphalt blending plant could be coming to Butte’s industrial park, but it’s contingent on getting a railroad spur to its planned operation.

Western States Asphalt LLC would only employ four people, but it would be another major tenant for Montana Connections Business Development Park west of Butte and would provide material for road and highway work in Montana.

Liquid asphalt, or emulsified asphalt, is commonly applied to asphalt surfaces as a sealer. The Butte operation would include an asphalt terminal and blending plant and tanks for storage.

“Most of our material is handled through pumps and pipelines so we are not a heavy employer, but we do support local industries as far as trucking and local contractors,” Ron Mahan, a regional operations manager for Western States, said Monday.

The board overseeing the Tax Increment Financing Industrial District, or TIFID, endorsed a pact Friday that would lease 20 acres to Western States for $1,000 a year. If it followed the lead of other tenants, the company would buy the land outright at some point.

Butte-Silver Bow commissioners could approve the lease when they meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the courthouse, 155 W. Granite St.

TIFID Administrator Kristen Rosa said the plant would be among businesses that “add a few jobs at a time” to Butte’s economy and the 20 acres would allow for future expansions.

“I think that’s a good thing,” she said.

Western States Asphalt has existed for about 35 years and has operations in Spokane and Pasco, Washington; Boise, Idaho and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The Butte project depends on railroad extensions and spurs planned at the industrial park. The TIFID board has established a 120-acre area for rail expansion and set aside $5 million to pay for it.

It has contracted with RailPros Field Services to design the rail and received approval from Union Pacific Railroad for track designs, and the county and Western States are working with Solvay, USA to ensure access to rail service.

The planned rail service needs to become reality for Western States to commit to the project, Mahan said.

“That will either make it or break it,” he said.

If the project gets under way, Western States could buy the land for $2,000 an acre, or $40,000 altogether.

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Government and politics reporter

Mike Smith is a reporter at the Montana Standard with an emphasis on government and politics.

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