MAT-SU—Work has begun on $88 million in construction projects for three segments of the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension. Contracts were recently awarded to three construction companies. Up to 200 jobs in the construction industry could be created this summer.
Bristol Construction will continue its work on Segment 1, the first five miles of the rail embankment. In October, earthmoving was completed to the wetlands boundary.
To view a map of the Port MacKenzie Rail project click here.
Granite Construction was awarded the contract for Segment 6 near Houston. Segment 6 is 1.8 miles long. It will create a new “Y” rail connection on the north-eastern end of the project as well as a new siding adjacent to the Alaska Railroad mainline to Fairbanks. The “Y” will enable freight service between Port MacKenzie and Fairbanks to the north and Anchorage/Kenai areas to the south.
QAP was awarded the contract for Segment 3. The segment is 6.5 miles long and will run from Ayrshire Road to Papoose Twins Road near Susitna Parkway. Clearing of the rail extension right-of-way has begun.
SEGMENT 4 TO GET UNDERWAY IN SUMMER
Segment 4, approximately 7.4 miles from Papoose Twins Road to north of Horseshoe Lake, will be awarded in late summer. State general obligation bonds recently sold and are funding the project.
The 32-mile rail project will connect the mainline of the Alaska Railroad near Houston to the deep draft dock at Port MacKenzie. The Borough has secured $116 million in State legislative appropriations, and state voters have approved $30 million for a General Obligation bond for the project in November 2012. To complete the entire project, this year the Borough is requesting $126 million in State appropriations. The project is expected to be completed by 2016.
Minerals rely on low transportation costs. When the rail is in place, Port Mackenzie will be 141 miles closer to the natural resources of the Interior than any other Alaska deepwater port.
The U.S. Army Corps permit that allows work in the wetlands was challenged in federal court. The federal judge in Alaska has not yet ruled on the case, but in February did rule to allow construction to continue. The petitioners made an emergency request to halt construction by appealing to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A panel on the 9th Circuit denied the request. The 9th Circuit is now considering the same request to halt construction under a regular timeline.
In another challenge, the petitioner filed against the project’s Environmental Impact Statement also with the 9th Circuit Court. In January, the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the project and last November lifted a stay on construction.
PROJECT OPEN HOUSE APRIL 24
Learn more about the construction project at an open house on April 24 from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Houston Middle School gym, 12801 W. Hawk Lane, Houston. Construction contractors, and project employees from the Alaska Railroad and the MAT-SU Borough will be available for questions.
Photo top: Scrapers working on the loop last season. Patty Sullivan/MSB