The Alaska Railroad Corp. and the Alaska to Alberta Railway Development Corp. (A2A Rail) have signed an historic agreement to pursue a $13 billion, 1,500-mile rail connection between Alaska and Canada. The project would also link to the rest of the United States.
“A rail connection between Alaska and Canada and the rest of the United States is a project that has been talked and dreamed about for close to a century,” said Alaska Railroad President and CEO Bill O’Leary in a press release. “Completing that connection has amazing potential for Alaska and this agreement between the Alaska Railroad and A2A Rail is an important first step to get the project underway.”
Plenty of work remains before construction can get underway. The corporate partners must conduct environmental reviews, apply for right-of-way guaranteed under state law for a rail connection into Canada and identify upgrades to existing facilities, bridges and track on the 512-mainline running from Seward to the North Pole.
First Nations, Indigenous groups and Alaska Native entities, whose traditional lands are crossed by the route, are being consulted during this process, the press release states.
The project already has the full support of the Alaska House and Senate, both of which passed resolutions supporting a similar enterprise this past spring.
“We are pleased to reach this milestone with the Alaska Railroad,” said Sean McCoshen, CEO and co-founder of A2A Rail. “It will help assure global investors that obtaining a right-of-way in Alaska is achievable, and sets up major cooperation in permitting, operations, and marketing with the Alaska Railroad. We expect this project to generate significant economic activity in Alaska and Canada.”
As FreightWaves reported earlier this year, the Alaska Railroad in partnership with Alaska Marine Lines (AML) plays a critical role in helping transport goods between Alaska and the rest of the United States.
The rail line connects Fairbanks with Anchorage and the Ports of Seward and Whittier in south-central Alaska. AML’s unique fleet includes barges fitted with rail tracks on the deck and container racks overhead.
“The railcars roll right onto barges and sail right down to the lower 48,” said Darren Prokop, a professor of logistics at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, told FreightWaves.