Monday, September 28, 2009

STB completes Northern Rail Extension Final EIS

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The federal Surface Transportation Board has completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Alaska Railroad Corporation application to construct and operate a rail line between North Pole and Delta Junction. Known as the Northern Rail Extension, the project would offer safe freight and passenger rail service to communities southeast of North Pole; support agricultural, mining and petrochemical industries; and provide year-round reliable access to military training areas.

The STB's Record of Decision is expected by the end of October. The decision completes an environmental review process that began in 2005 by the STB's Section of Environmental Analysis. The STB is the federal authority over any new or extended rail projects in the U.S. The FEIS includes a recommended route and mitigation measures to offset impacts from construction.

Following the final decision, ARRC can pursue final design and construction, which will likely occur in four phases, beginning in 2010:

• Phase One - Tanana River Crossing at Salcha.

• Phase Two - Rail construction from Moose Creek near North Pole to the Salcha crossing.

• Phase Three - Rail construction from the Salcha crossing to the Donnelly Military Training Area.

• Phase Four - Donnelly to Delta Junction,

The Federal Railroad Administration funded the EIS process with grants totaling $16 million. Recent Department of Defense appropriations provide partial funding for design and construction of Phase One. This includes $44.2 million in 2007 and $60 million in 2008 to be used for final design, permitting, right-of-way acquisition, material procurement and construction preparation. Construction of subsequent phases is subject to the availability of funding from sources that could include federal appropriations and revenue bonds.

The FEIS is on the STB web site (www.stb.dot.gov <http://www.stb.dot.gov/>) under Environmental Issues, then Key Cases. The direct link is: http://www.stb.dot.gov/decisions/readingroom.nsf/WEBUNID/B251BCEF544F9AC8852576320066F351?OpenDocument. More information is also available on the project web site: http://www.northernrailextension.com <http://www.northernrailextension.com/>

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