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STB completes environmental review of Alaska Railroad's northern extension

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) recently completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Alaska Railroad Corp.’s (ARRC) proposed Northern Rail Extension (NRE) between North Pole and Delta Junction.

Estimated to cost between $650 million and $850 million, the project calls for building an 80-mile line connecting the existing Eielson Branch at the Chena River overflow structure to a point near Delta Junction. The NRE line would accommodate freight and passenger trains, with passenger trains operating at a top speed of 79 mph and supporting transit operations between Fairbanks, North Pole, Salcha and Delta Junction.

The FEIS, which includes a recommended route and mitigation measures, ends the board’s environmental review process that began in 2005. The Federal Railroad Administration funded the EIS with grants totaling $16 million.

The railroad expects the STB to issue a final decision on the project by October’s end. If the NRE is approved, ARRC would begin final design and construction. The project would advance in four phases beginning in 2010: 1) the Tanana river crossing at Salcha; 2) rail construction from Moose Creek near North Pole to the river crossing; 3) rail construction from the crossing to the Donnelly military training area; and 4) rail construction from Donnelly to Delta Junction.

U.S. Department of Defense appropriations will partially fund first-phase design and construction, including $104.2 million for final design, permitting, right-of-way acquisition, material procurement and construction preparation. Additional phases will advance pending the availability of federal funds.

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