On Dec. 7, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" for the environmental assessment of the Alaska Railroad Corp.'s (ARRC) North Pole Road/Rail Crossing Reduction project. The finding enables the project to advance to its next phases, including land acquisition, final design and permitting, as funding sources are identified.
The project calls for reducing the number of grade crossings along ARRC's Eielson Branch line from Richardson Highway to the Chena River Floodway. In addition, track would be realigned on the landward side of the Tanana River Flood Control Levee, nine crossings would be closed through the city of North Pole and a crossing over Richardson Highway would be replaced by a grade separation. The work is the first phase of a larger proposed project designed to realign tracks outside of the more urban areas of Fairbanks and North Pole.
The FRA issued the finding after considering the potential impacts of several alternatives in the environmental assessment and reviewing public comments. The environmental assessment was financed by $1 million in Federal Highway Administration funds that were reallocated by the Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System and Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. ARRC is seeking funding sources for the next phases.
Meanwhile, ARRC announced the delivery of 165-foot steel girders to the Tanana River Crossing construction site near Salcha, Alaska. Over the next few months, 80 girders will be transported via a slow-moving truck convoy along Richardson Highway from Valdez to the Salcha site. Each convoy will consist of three trucks plus support vehicles moving at a speed limited to 25 mph.
The girders will be used to build a 3,300-foot steel span bridge known as the Tanana River Crossing. The bridge and an associated levee comprise the first phase of the four-phase Northern Rail Extension project, which will add about 80 miles of new rail line to ARRC's system stretching from North Pole to Delta Junction.
The Tanana River Crossing is scheduled for completion in July 2014. Six of 19 bridge piers have been completed and five are under construction.
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