Railroad plans more than $52 million in capital improvements

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Railroad Corp. is planning more than $52 million in capital improvements with much of the work to be done this summer.

Railroad spokesman Patrick Flynn said since 1996 the state-owned railroad has received $288 million for improvements.

The railroad also announced earlier this month that it was adding $20 million to railroad coffers with an appropriation from the U.S. Department of Transportation, money secured by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Major work slated for this summer includes continued improvements on rail, ties, bridges, sidings and switches throughout the 498-mile line and the second phase of upgrading and straightening of mainline between Anchorage and Wasilla.

The railroad began construction last spring on the project that will straighten some 70 curves on the Anchorage-to-Wasilla line. Some road crossings along the track also will be improved for increased safety, according to the railroad.

When all three phases are completed in 2004 at a cost of $78 million, railroad officials said the travel time between Anchorage and Wasilla will drop from 90 minutes to just under an hour. Trains should be able to maintain speeds of about 50 mph instead of slowing to 20-25 mph.

In 2001, the railroad had some $73 million earmarked for capital improvements, $20.5 million more than this year. The additional money came mainly from a $13 million federal reimbursement to the railroad for fuel spills it had in 1999 at Canyon and at Gold Creek, where 15 cars left the track, five of them spilling more than 120,000 gallons of jet fuel.

This spring the Alaska Railroad completed its $2.3 million rail-yard underpass at Whittier. The 300-foot-long underpass was installed to provide safe passage to pedestrians while crossing the rail yard, according to the railroad.

Improvements totaling $1.6 million to the Whittier barge slip facility is ongoing this year, with completion slated for 2003.

Other projects under construction this year with completion slated for 2003 include the $4.5 million Denali National Park rail station; a $2.2 million equipment maintenance facility in Whittier; and $510,000 in improvements to the Talkeetna depot.

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