Alaska Railroad - Northern Rail Extension
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Alaska Railroad - Northern Rail Extension

Alaska Railroad - Northern Rail Extension Abstract

On July 6, 2007, the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC or the Applicant) filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board (STB or the Board) pursuant to 49 United States Code (U.S.C.) 10502 for the authority to construct and operate a new rail line between North Pole, Alaska, and Delta Junction, Alaska. In the petition, the Applicant proposed the construction of approximately 80 miles of new rail line, known as the Northern Rail Extension.

The Board’s Section of Environmental Analysis (SEA) announces the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Northern Rail Extension. SEA prepared the Final EIS in cooperation with eight agencies – the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Alaska State Office; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District; the U.S. Department of Defense, Alaskan Command; the U.S. Air Force 354 th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base; the Federal Transit Administration; the Federal Railroad Administration; the U.S. Coast Guard, Seventeenth District; and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The Final EIS is based on SEA’s independent analyses; consultations with agencies, elected officials, organizations, and members of the public; and careful consideration of all comments on the Draft EIS. The document contains detailed responses to comments received on the Draft EIS, and SEA’s recommendations for alternatives that should be constructed and operated should the Board grant final approval for the project. SEA’s recommendations for alternatives include the North Common Segment, any one of three Eielson alternative segments, Salcha Alternative Segment 1, Connector Segment B, Central Alternative Segment 2, Connector Segment E (as needed), either of the Donnelly alternative segments, South Common Segment, and Delta Alternative Segment 1.

Last, the Final EIS sets SEA’s final recommendations for mitigating potential environmental impacts. SEA recommends that the Board impose the 51 voluntary mitigation measures the Applicant developed and the 72 additional mitigation measures SEA developed (see Chapter 2 of the Final EIS).

The Final EIS is organized consistent with Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and is intended to be read in conjunction with the Draft EIS, which was issued for public review and comment on December 12, 2008. The Draft EIS provides more detailed information on the Proposed Action and Alternatives to agency decisionmakers and the public. The Draft EIS describes the project’s purpose and need, the Proposed Action and Alternatives, existing environmental conditions, the potential environmental impacts associated with the Proposed Action and alternatives, and mitigation. The Final EIS reflects additional consultation and coordination activities and revisions to the document’s content since publication of the Draft EIS.

SEA mailed the entire Final EIS to Federal, state, and local agencies, elected officials, organizations, and other interested parties. The Final EIS is also available to all interested persons for review in the reference section of three public libraries in the project area, listed below:

Delta Community Library
2288 Deborah Street
Delta Junction, AK 99737
(907) 895-4656

Noel Wein Public Library
1215 Cowles Street
Fairbanks, AK 99701
(907) 459-1020

North Pole Branch Library
601 Snowman Lane
North Pole, AK 99705
(907) 488-6101

Links to the Draft EIS and Final EIS are provided below:

September 18, 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement

December 12, 2008 Draft Environmental Impact Statement

On January 5, 2010, the Surface Transportation Board authorized ARRC to construct and operate the Northern Rail Extension, subject to environmental-mitigation conditions.

After considering the entire public record before it, including both the transportation aspects of ARRC’s proposal and potential environmental issues, the Board found that the proposed line would provide reliable, year-round freight and passenger service to the region south of North Pole, AK; 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 Board also stated that the proposal would foster development of Alaska’s economy by expanding ARRC’s passenger and freight network to an area currently without rail service.

The full text of the Board’s decision can be found here:

Final Decision Served January 6, 2010