Mystrom Discusses Rail Extension At Palmer Chamber

Alaska Rail Road Routes

Alaska Rail Road Routes

Former Anchorage Mayor Rick Mystrom spoke at the Greater Palmer Chamber Of Commerce today about building a railroad spur from the main line of the Alaska Railroad to Port Mackenzie. He believes that with signs of a slowing Alaskan economy we should be sinking some money into infrastructure.

This extension of the railroad would cost about $200 million dollars. This would be funded by the state of Alaska, since it owns the railroad. Mystrom is asking local businesses to contact their legislators about providing this infrastructure.

It would provide a more economical means to ship minerals from the interior. Mystrom said it would reduce the cost of shipping coal by $3 a ton. That for a product that retails for only $20 a ton, so its a significant savings. It would also allow the economical development of a large limestone deposit by Livengood which has enough limestone for 15% of the US cement needs.

I note that the borough had a press release yesterday about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the rail extension.

Mystrom contends that Port Mackenzie does not compete with Anchorage because it can handle much larger ships that would ship interior resources to the market in a more economical fashion. The port of Anchorage is mainly centered on container ships while the Port Mac will specialize in more bulky products like coal, limestone, or wood chips.

Seward, another deep water port on the rail system, was also mentioned in Mystrom’s presentation. Of course it is a couple hundred miles further from the interior and is accessed through some steep mountain passes which are never good for heavily loaded trains.

After sitting through the session I couldn’t help but think that there is another project that we all need to get behind first…the gas line. It appears that the All-Alaska line may be gaining momentum. If we had the All-Alaska line to Valdez with a spur to Kenai, and LNG up and down the Yukon by barge to the villages we would be in better shape to fund something like this railroad extension.