Trump to OK cross-border railroad line from Alaska to Canada

A railroad track leading into yellow leaves
A railroad track near Anchorage, Alaska (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

President Donald Trump announced he’ll issue a permit soon that will allow a Canadian-based company to build a proposed 1,600-mile rail line from Alberta to Alaska across the international border. Backers of the Alberta-to-Alaska railway say Trump’s announcement will give their proposed project a big boost.

Trump announced his intention to issue a so-called presidential permit for the Alaska-to-Alberta Railway project in a tweet he posted Friday night. A2A Railway Vice Chair Mead Treadwell says the permit is essential to moving ahead with the project.

“A lot of other projects have foundered on just the simple, fundamental question: ‘Will the president of the United States allow a crossing of the U.S.-Canada border?’” he said.

Treadwell is a former lieutenant governor and U.S. Arctic Research Commission chair with long experience in business and finance. He said in an interview last month that the presidential permit is the first of many that the Alaska Alberta Railway Development Corp. intends to apply for.

“We’re hoping to begin formal permitting with the Environmental Impact Statement process sometime either late this year or early next,” Treadwell said.

A2A Railway’s proposal is the latest of several Alaska-Canada railways that’ve been proposed over the years. A2A has been working on its plan for three years now to build a rail line that will transport such commodities such as potash, sulfur and a heavy form of petroleum known as bitumen from Canada to ports in Alaska for export overseas.

Treadwell says if the $17 billion project ultimately is built over the next five to seven years, it’ll be the newest of some two dozen rail lines that cross the international border.

“There’s I believe 23 railroads which now cross the U.S.-Canada border,” he said, “including the White Pass Railroad from Skagway, headed up toward Whitehorse.”

If the project goes ahead, the A2A Railway would cross over from the Yukon Territory at the Ladue River Valley, east of Tetlin.  

“It would go through the Ladue River Valley, come up and meet the Alaska Highway at about where the Taylor Highway meets the Alaska Highway, near Tetlin Junction; (then) move up through Tok and Tanacross and around Dot Lake. And come up to connect with the Alaska Railroad.”

A2A Railway officials say that connection with the Alaska Railroad would be either at North Pole, where it now ends, or in Delta Junction, if a project formerly known as the Northern Rail Extension is built to bring the rail to Delta.

A2A has scheduled meetings with communities along the route that would be affected by the project.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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