FRA Announces Infrastructure Improvement Grant for Alaska Railroad, Extension of Rail Line to be Studied
Friday, May 27, 2005 (Washington, DC) The Federal Railroad Administration announced today a $24.8 million infrastructure grant for the Alaska Railroad to upgrade mainline tracks, replace bridges, prevent rock slides and install track at the new Fairbanks Intermodal Facility.
The Alaska Railroad is a state-owned corporation providing both passenger and freight rail services to communities from Fairbanks to Seward. Additionally, through innovative arrangements with cruise line companies, the railroad has developed a special service tailored to meet the needs of the cruise industry. By attaching first-class travel cars owned by the cruise lines to its trains, the railroad brings cruise passengers to places in Alaska that ships cannot serve. This innovative service has helped make the railroad unique as the only profitable passenger railroad in the nation, receiving no state operating subsidy.
“There are lessons in the experience of Alaska Railroad that can apply elsewhere,” said FRA Acting Administrator Robert D. Jamison. “Creating government partnerships to support passenger rail infrastructure improvements and letting rail operators focus on running the trains can lead to better service, increased demand and profitability.”
The grant involves replacement of nearly 16,000 railroad ties and conversion of 30 miles of track, from jointed to continuously welded rail, for easier maintenance and a smoother ride. These funds also will be used to stabilize track subgrades, prevent rock slides onto tracks near Healy Canyon, and build additional track at the Fairbanks Intermodal Facility to handle more trains, more efficiently. Also, nine bridges will either be replaced or rehabilitated.
In addition, FRA announced a second $14 million grant to fund preliminary engineering and environmental studies for an 80-mile extension of the rail line. The extension proposes to connect Eielson Air Force Base near North Pole, to Fort Greely near Delta Junction, to support a variety of military needs. These funds also will be used to study a realignment and improvement of 20 miles of track from Fort Wainwright to Moose Creek, where it would connect with the new rail line.