Thursday, January 07, 2010

STB approves 89-mile Alaska Railroad extension

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The Surface Transportation Board has granted the request of the state-owned Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) to build and operate the 80-mile as the Northern Rail Extension, subject to extensive environmental mitigation conditions.

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In an announcement late Wednesday, the STB said: "After considering the entire public record before it, including both the transportation aspects of ARRC's proposal and potential environmental issues, the Board was satisfied that the proposed line would provide reliable, year-round freight and passenger service to the region south of North Pole, AK; access to training areas used by the United States military; and an alternative to the Richardson Highway, now the sole means for surface transportation of commercial freight in the proposed project area. The Board was also satisfied that the proposal would foster development o fAlaska's economy by expanding ARRC's passenger and freight network to an area currently without rail service."

The decision follows the board's analysis of the Sept. 192009, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the agency's Section of Environmental Analysis. STB said the FEIS reflects "careful comparison of potential alternatives to the proposal to identify environmentally preferred rail alignment alternatives, as well as conditions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential environmental impacts." STB said it was "satisfied that the preferred rail alignment alternatives it authorized, along with the environmental conditions the Board imposed, would avoid, minimize, or mitigate, to the extent practicable, potential environmental impacts."