ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The first of three new barges has been launched for service between Seattle and Whittier.
The 420-foot-long by 100-foot-wide barge is equipped with rails so railcars can roll on and roll off. Deck space also can be used for break-bulk cargo and containers.
The Alaska Railroad has signed a 10-year contract with Alaska Railbelt Marine LLC, a subsidiary of Lynden Inc., to charter space for the weekly service.
''This barge represents a refinement to the railbarge service which has been operating for the railroad for many years,'' said Jim Jansen, president of Lynden Inc. ''The new barges are designed to provide faster, more efficient and more reliable service.''
Alaska Railbelt will operate the barges using tugboats run by Western Tow Boat. The Alaska Railroad will continue marketing the railcar service.
Construction of a second barge is due for completion in February, officials said.
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