The Port MacKenzie Rail Extension project in Alaska involves the construction of a 32-mile (51.5km) railway line connecting Port MacKenzie’s deep draft rock to the chief rail route of Alaska Rail Road at Houston. Construction is being carried out by The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the port’s owner.
Construction on the extension line started in March 2013, but stalled for around a month when environmental activists, who claimed that the environment would be harmed, filed a suit against the project.
The court initially decided in favour of the plaintiffs, and the work hence had to come to a standstill. However, it reversed the previous order and granted permission for resumption of the project work after a meticulous review of its previous decision.
Work is now in progress and the project is expected to be complete by 2016. The project is expected to create around 3,000 jobs.
Project details and benefits of Port MacKenzie rail extension
The new rail route connecting Port MacKenzie and Houston will boost mining operations in the region by cutting the distance between the port and the interior region by 141 miles (227km), which will help in reducing the transportation cost of minerals. It is expected to result in a surge in mining activity along the line, especially in locations that were earlier hindered by inadequate transportation.
The port will also witness an increase in bulk exports upon completion of the new railway line. The rail loop of the port will be able to accommodate 110 rail cars upon completion, which will lead to a significant rise in cargo offloading efficiency.
The port is currently only accessible by a 40-mile (64.4km) road that starts from the highway at Wasilla. The entire route of the railway extension line will have cross drainage through 110 culverts. The route plan also includes eight bridges, as well as crossings for trail users and fauna.
Alaska Railroad (ARRC) is planning to build and operate a new 83-mile railway line, known as the Northern Rail Extension, in the state of Alaska, USA. The railway line will be extended from the town of North Pole to the Delta Junction where the access is currently only through airways or roads.
Construction details and contractors involved with the Port MacKenzie rail extension
Construction of the Port MacKenzie rail extension is divided into in eight segments, with work on three the segments (1, 3 and 6) in progress as of March 2013. Bristol Construction is the contractor for 4.9-mile (7.8km) Segment 1 of the extension line.
The contract for Segment 3 has been granted to QAP, which will construct 6.5 miles (10.4km) of railway line, connecting Ayrshire road and Papoose Twins Road.
Granite Construction secured the contract to build the 1.8-mile (2.9km) Segment 6 located close to Houston. The work on segment 6 entails a Y-shaped connection towards the north-east end. It will enable freight services from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage and Fairbanks.
The 7.4-mile (11.9km) stretch between Papoose Twins Road and the northern part of Horseshoe Lake will include Segment 4. Bidding for Segment 4 will be opened in July 2013.
Construction on segments 2 and 5 is expected to begin in August 2013. Construction on Segments 7 and 8 will start in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Project cost and funding of the Port MacKenzie rail extension
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been allotted $116m in funding for the rail extension project, in the form of state legislative appropriations. It has requested further state appropriations of $126m in order to complete the project. A general obligation bond worth $30m has also been approved for the project in November 2012.
Stages 1, 3, 4 and 6 of the project have been funded. Around $60m is reserved for segments 2 and 5, while $66.5m is kept for segments 7 and 8. The funding is expected to be approved in the 2013 legislative session.