Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Alaska Railroad begins extension project

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Alaska Railroad has begun clearing right-of-way for a 32-mile, $88 million extension between Point MacKenzie and Houston, Alaska.

The railroad hopes to bolster mineral shipments and other bulk goods from Port MacKenzie to interior points in the state. Port MacKenzie is a deep-water port, with a draft dock of 60 feet at low tide that requires no dredging, according to local sources.

Right-of-way work will be approached in a six-step process. Track is likely to be laid in 2014. The project’s completion target date is 2016.

Critics of the project, including environmental interests such as the Sierra Club, say the extension is not needed, and also based on questionable future economic development assumptions, such as coal or ore from mines that open up along the corridor to Fairbanks.

The permitgranted by the Army Corps of Engineers allows for the filling in of 96 acres of wetlands. A federal judge denied an injunction to block the project, which involves altering 96 acres of wetland.