| VANCOUVER, British Columbia
VANCOUVER, British Columbia A railway to link
Alaska to the rest of North America would create wider benefits
even if freight revenue did not cover the projected $10.5
billion construction cost, according to a new study.
Building a more than 1,600-mile (3,300-kilometre) line
between existing railroads in Alaska and Canada would spur
mining development and open a new trade route to Asia,
according to the report released this week by governments of
the state of Alaska and the neighboring Canadian territory of
"The implications of this are much broader than just
building a railroad," said Eugene Lysy, Yukon's deputy minister
of economic development, who chaired the C$4.7 million ($4.4
million) study's management working group.
"In terms of the North, Yukon and Alaska, we have an
opportunity to position ourselves to benefit from the supply
and demand requirements of a growing global economy," Lysy
The study suggests the rail link would likely have to be
funded as a joint public-private project, because projected
freight shipping revenues over 50 years would cover only about
75 percent of the full $10.5 billion investment.
Building the rail line through the largely wilderness
region would create $11.4 billion in net public benefits such
as increased employment over the next five decades, according
to the researchers.
There have been calls to build a railway between Alaska and
the rest of the continent since at least the early 1900s, and
in 2000 the U.S. Congress authorized $6 million to study the
feasibility of the idea.
The study examined building a line from the Canadian
National Railway in northern British Columbia, running through
Yukon to the state-owned Alaska Railway, as well as a branch
line to the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.
Rail cars to and from Alaska now travel by barge, so
building the line would improve the state's economic security
by adding transportation options, the researchers said.
Exports of British Columbia coal and iron ore from Yukon
would likely make up much the line's freight traffic, because
access to rail service would make building mines in the region
more economically feasible.
Asian trade via containers could also become a revenue
Lysy said the economic research used to prepare the 84-page
report was much more extensive than any earlier study on an
Alaska rail link.
The researchers acknowledged the line would also have an
environmental and social impact on the wilderness area, and
said both issues needed more study.
"In terms of environmental protection, there are issues
with wildlife, endangered species and extensive bodies of water
through the region," the study said.