ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The federal government has freed up $20 million for track upgrades this year along the Alaska Railroad.
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens secured the money in the 2002 Department of Transportation budget. Stevens announced Monday that Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta had released the funds.
''These funds are critical to replacing old rail and rail ties, which will improve safety and further modernize our railroad infrastructure,'' Stevens said.
The railroad is a state-owned corporation. It has 611 miles of track, including the main line, spurs, sidings and rail yards, between Seward and Fairbanks.
Railroad spokesman Patrick Flynn said the $20 million is the same amount appropriated to the railroad for the 2001 budget year.
The money this year will pay for 32,272 new cross ties, 63,000 feet of rail and a 6,200-foot siding at Curry, north of Talkeetna. The siding will provide an additional place for a train to pull over on the single-track line to let another pass, Flynn said.
All railroads can apply for such funding, administered through the Federal Railroad Administration, he said. Typically, commuter train lines in big urban areas best qualify for the funds, but the Alaska Railroad qualifies because it carries both freight and passengers, Flynn said.
The federal money has been vital for upgrading old track, he said.
''Last year was the first year in a while that we had zero derailments related to track conditions,'' Flynn said.
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