Matanuska-Susitna Borough

$35 million in state funding to Port Mac Rail

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Wednesday, June 02, 2010

"I’m pleased the rail spur can begin," said Mayor Talis Colberg of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. "I understand that Governor Parnell has a difficult job trying to balance fiscal responsibility with sensible economic development of infrastructure. This will be a project that the entire state of Alaska will benefit from," Colberg said.

A team of Borough and Railroad employees has been working on the project for two years. "We're happy to see that Governor Parnell views Port MacKenzie Rail as one of Alaska's significant economic development projects," said Assistant Borough Manager Elizabeth Gray. "While we're disappointed the funding request was reduced, the $35 million that will be received moves the project into construction. The first miles of rail will be built; the design and engineering of the final route will be completed, and the right of way for the route will be purchased," Gray said. “That’s serious work on a tremendous project.”

The rail extension will result in some 2,000 construction jobs and some 3,000 mining and spin-off jobs, according to studies on the Borough website. With the shorter distance to tidewater and the reduced transportation costs, new mines will be stimulated along the route to Fairbanks. Mineral production is projected to reach $1 billion per year. A 1.6 billion ton limestone deposit near Livengood could mean that Alaska exports cement.

Also included in the final state capital budget is $750,000 to help complete the expansion of the barge dock from eight acres to sixteen acres at Port MacKenzie. “This expansion will enable us to provide a staging area for sealift module construction, storage for building materials and pipe, a marine base for tugboats and a connection to the future expanded deep draft dock,” said Marc VanDongen, Port Director.

Economic Development Director Dave Hanson led the effort to acquire a $3 million Stimulus grant for the expansion. “This expanded barge dock is yet another piece in the construction of a world-class bulk resource export facility,” Hanson said.

The final route from Port MacKenzie to the mainline for the Rail Extension has not yet been identified by the federal Surface Transportation Board. The final Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be completed in the fall.

Depending on the route selected, the project is estimated to cost $250 million and is planned for completion by 2013-14.

Benefits from the rail project can be seen on the Borough’s economic development page at

The MAT-SU region is going to receive $137 million in capital budget funding.

Some $4 million was vetoed for substandard bridges and road repair projects and arterial road and bridge improvements.

For more information call Borough Public Affairs Director Patty Sullivan at 861-8577 or cell 355-0103,  or Transportation Division Manager Brad Sworts at 746-7430.