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Alaska Railroad Corporation Northern Rail Extension - Phase 1

The Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) plans to construct and operate a new 80-mile rail line, referred to as the Northern Rail Extension (NRE), from North Pole to Delta Junction. The line would begin at the existing Eielson Branch line, located at the Chena Overflow Structure just south of the North Pole, and would end at Delta Junction with service to Fort Greely.

The Surface Transportation Board's (STB), Section of Enironmental Analysis, prepared the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Draft EIS was published on December 12, 2008 and the Final EIS was published on September 18, 2009. The STB then issued its Record of Decision (ROD) on January 6, 2010 and on April 12, 2010 a ROD was issued by the Federal Railroad Administration. The Draft EIS, the Final EIS and the STB ROD can be found at the following website:

http://www.stb.dot.gov/STB/environment/key_cases_alaska.html

On June 4, 2010 the ARRC submitted easement applications to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). ARRC has requested private easements for Phase 1 of the NRE Project. The Division of Mining, Land & Water (DMLW), DNR, has written a proposed decision to authorize construction and ultimately to issue the requested easements. The DMLW is now seeking comments on that decision. After public and agency comments are received and evaluated, a final decision will be issued.

Phases

The NRE project has 4 phases. The proposed decision covers Phase 1 of the project. Below is a brief description of the phases and proposed timeline.

Phase 1 is construction of the Tanana River Bridge near Salcha. It involves an access road, levee, staging areas (not on state land), bridges over the Tanana River and interconnecting sloughs, spur dikes associated with the Tanana River Bridge, and an access road and rail embankment on a state owned island. The intent is to begin staging equipment and construction materials in the spring of 2011. Construction for Phase 1 would continue through 2014.

Phase 2 is rail construction from Moose Creek near North Pole to the newly constructed Tanana River Bridge at the Salcha crossing. Construction for this phase is planned from 2012 through 2014, though it is funding dependent.

Phase 3 is rail construction from the Salcha crossing to the Donnelly West Training Area (TA). There is no set timeline for this phase of the project and it is also funding dependent.

Phase 4 is rail construction from Donnelly to Delta Junction. As with Phase 3, there is no set timeline for construction and it is funding dependent.

Location

Phase 1 of the project is located approximately 7.5 miles north of Salcha, west of milepost 332 of the Richardson Highway. While Phase 1 is a part of the overall NRE project, as a stand alone project it would provide year round access to military land for training purposes. The purpose of the overall proposed NRE project is to provide year round freight and passenger service to the region south of North Pole and to provide year round access to military training areas on the south side of the Tanana River, the Tanana Flats and the Donnelly West Training Areas.

For additional information please refer to ARRC's NRE project webpage at http://www.northernrailextension.com.

Proposed Action

The proposed action is Phase 1, which includes:

  • Upgrading and extending Tom Bear Trail for use as an access road
  • Building a bridge across Piledriver Slough along Tom Bear Trail
  • Building a bridge with ancillary structures across the Tanana River
  • Building an access road and rail embankment across the island between the Tanana River and Boundary Slough
  • Building bridges across Boundary and Beebee Sloughs
  • Building a levee along the right bank of the Tanana River

The construction of a staging area on ARRC land and a staging area, spur dikes, and access road across military land are also a part of the Phase 1 project, though not a part of DNR's decision. The Tanana River Bridge with ancillary structures, the levee and the extension of Tom Bear Trail into state shorelands will require the issuance of easements; ARRC has requested private easements. The upgrade and extension of Tom Bear Trail within the section line easement will require a letter of authorization.


Figure 1-1. Project Features Overview.

The DMLW proposes to issue a letter of authorization for the upgrade and extension of Tom Bear Trail along the existing section line easement and to issue an Early Entry Authorization permit for construction and survey of the following project components: Piledriver Slough Bridge; extension of Tom Bair Trail within the shorelands of the Tanana River; the Tanana River Bridge with ancillary structures; access road and rail embankment across the island between the Tanana River and Boundary Slough; Boundary Slough bridges; Beebee Slough bridges; and the Tanana River levee. Following construction and survey separate private exclusive easements for the Tanana River Bridge and the levee would be issued. The Tanana River Bridge easement would include the bridge, the access road within the Tanana River shorelands, two spur dikes, the guide bank, the access road and rail embankment on the island and the bridges over Boundary and Beebee Sloughs. A private non-exclusive easement would be issued for the Piledriver Slough Bridge located within the section line easement.

Proposed Decision

Seeking Written Comments

The DNR, DMLW is seeking written comments on the Proposed Decision. Copies of the decision are also available at the Fairbanks DNR building at the location listed below.

In order to ensure consideration written comments must be received in writing by the DMLW, Northern Region Lands Section on or before 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 7, 2011.

To submit comments via email: dianna.leinberger@alaska.gov

To submit comments via mail:

Dianna Leinberger
DNR, DMLW, Northern Region Lands Section
3700 Airport Way
Fairbanks, AK 99709-4699