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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way

Alaska Railroad, university team up to study vegetation-control herbicides


Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) is working with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) to research herbicides that could be used to control vegetation along track.

Since 1983, the railroad has tried to control vegetation non-chemically — such as through mechanical brush cutting, and steam and burning methods — but the growth rate and location of vegetation along 500 track miles many times resulted in Federal Railroad Administration fines, ARRC said.

"Persistent vegetation on and around our track continues to present a recognized safety risk, and we are simply unable to keep up with it during 20 hours of summer daylight," said ARRC President and Chief Executive Officer Pat Gamble in a prepared statement. "We firmly believe a mix of mechanical and chemical vegetation control methods as part of an integrated program is the most effective way to deal with this menace."

The railroad and university will study herbicides on four test plots totaling 4.3 acres between Portage and Seward. An additional research site will be located on UAF property.

Part of a multi-year research project managed by the Alaska University Transportation Center, the ARRC study calls for evaluating groundwater and soil samples to measure the persistence and dissipation of two herbicides — Oust Extra and AquaMaster — when exposed to Alaska's climate and environmental conditions.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/5/2008