FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Sen. Frank Murkowski, long a promoter of a rail line from Alaska to Canada, thinks a natural gas line to the Lower 48 could make both more economically feasible.
Murkowski, R-Alaska, visited British Columbia last week for the U.S.-Canada Inter-parliamentary Conference. He said he's asking North Slope gas owners to consider the idea as they study ways of bringing gas to the Lower 48.
Murkowski has long promoted the idea of a rail line from Alaska to Canada. The new track would stretch 1,150 miles from Eielson Air Force Base, near Fairbanks, to Fort Nelson, B.C. -- the northern terminus of the North American rail network.
Expense is a major obstacle, though. Alaska Railroad officials say building new rail line costs $1 million to $2 million per mile, meaning the project could easily run up to $2.3 billion.
Murkowski has said he suspects the cost could be covered in the long run with shipments of resources such as coal and mineral-rich ore.
The financial risk could be reduced by linking the rail line with the gas line, Murkowski said.
The senator isn't necessarily expecting companies involved in a gas line to participate in direct funding of the railroad extension. The companies already have access to the Alaska Highway, which parallels much of one proposed gas line route and thus creates a path to carry pipe and equipment.
Nevertheless, some sort of work surface immediately adjacent to the gas line will be necessary. ''It might be feasible to lay a pipeline from a railroad,'' Murkowski said. In fact, he said, Canadians have already done so in some places.
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