EDMONTON, Alta. — Talk of a new railway linking Alberta to Alaska is generating some excitement south of the border, but such a proposal could hurt the trucking industry.
Although there has always been talk of linking Alaska to the south via a new railway, that possibility is becoming more of a reality following a recent visit to Alberta by Alaskan politicians pitching the idea.
"The goal is to connect Alaska to the Lower 48," Rep. Jeaneatte James tells local media. She, along with Senator Frank Murkowski, is a major supporter of the idea. "But given our common interests in energy, I think Alberta would be one of the largest beneficiaries of this project. I think a railroad would easily double the trade that is going on now," she continues.
Some Canadian officials have been quick to support the idea, including president of Economic Development Edmonton, Jim Edwards.
"There is a dream-like quality to the proposal, but I wouldn’t underestimate the resolve of the Alaskans," Edwards tells local media. "I don’t think we can afford to ignore it. There may be a lot of reasons why Canada and Alberta would want to strengthen ties with Alaska."
It is expected the proposed rail link will cost between $1.2 billion and $3.6 billion, but James says there is about $80 billion worth of untapped resources that can be exploited if an effective shipping method is found. A Yukon report indicates that the rail line could be instrumental in getting these resources tapped, as getting them to market is three to four times cheaper by rail than by truck.
Meanwhile, a conference in October will allow politicians to discuss the idea further and a U.S. committee is being formed to take a closer look at the proposal.
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