The Alaska Railroad won approval from the Surface Transportation Board to build an 80-mile northern extension from the town of North Pole, outside Fairbanks, southeast to Delta Junction, an area now served only by road or air.
"The board was satisfied that the proposed line would provide reliable, year-round freight and passenger service to the region south of North Pole, (Alaska); access to training areas used by the United States military; and an alternative to the Richardson Highway, now the sole means for surface transportation of commercial freight in the proposed project area," the STB said in its decision.
It also said the proposed rail line would help develop the state's economy "by expanding ARRC's passenger and freight network to an area currently without rail service."
The railroad first filed for STB approval in July 2007, but the plan raised environmental concerns from state and federal agencies and triggered an STB impact study. The board's approval came contingent on some mitigation measures Alaska Railroad will need to implement.
- John D. Boyd.