Railroad could get $25 million for rail improvements

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska Railroad would receive $25 million for track improvements in the coming year under a transportation spending bill approved by a U.S. Senate committee.

The funds would be more than the state spent to buy the entire operation.

The state paid $22.3 million for the railroad in 1985. The federal government had owned the operation since it was completed in 1923.

The rail money is in the annual federal spending bill, which was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill must still be approved by the full Senate and House.

Another $2 million listed in the bill would go toward a new railroad terminal in Fairbanks.

The railroad also is eligible for a variety of other federal grants, which should boost its total take from the federal government by several million dollars more in the coming year.

Sen. Ted Stevens obtained language in the transportation bill that would reduce the money the railroad must provide to match federal transit money. The match is currently 20 percent; Stevens' amendment would cut that to 9 percent, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Other transportation bill money includes the following:

-- $2 million to build a new road that would provide access to lands where access is currently blocked by Fort Wainwright.

-- $3 million for volcano monitoring through a program based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks that is designed to warn aircraft of dangerous ash clouds.

-- $500,000 for computer system upgrades necessary to handle data to be created by a newly passed law that redesigned Alaska's bypass mail system.

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