Friday, September 14, 2012

Railroad Receives Line Construction Permit

Alaska Railroad Corp. has received a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers to fill dozens of acres of wetlands as it builds the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension project, a 30- to 45-mile rail line that would provide freight services between the port and interior Alaska.

The new rail line would be an extension of the Alaska Railroad’s current system, which connects ports in Seward, Whittier and Anchorage with Interior Alaska, including Denali National Park, Fairbanks and North Pole.

The permit, which was announced Sept. 12, authorizes the railroad to permanently fill about 96 acres of wetlands to construct a new rail line about 36 miles long. The new line, which would carry bulk commodities, would connect into the existing main rail line just south of Houston, Alaska and end at Port MacKenzie.

The existing main line runs from Seward through Anchorage to Fairbanks.

The permit includes special conditions to avoid and minimize potential adverse impacts and to compensate for unavoidable adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem and to ensure that the project would not be contrary to the public interest.

The $270-$300 million project is a joint effort between the state-owned railroad and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which operates Port MacKenzie. The extension is projected to be complete by 2016.