Trump to approve $22B railway between Alaska and Alberta

A map shows the proposed route of the Alberta to Alaska rail line. (A2A Rail)

U.S. President Donald Trump says he will grant approval to a $22-billion freight rail project connecting Alaska and Alberta.

The president tweeted Friday that based on the recommendations of Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, he will be issuing a presidential permit approving the A2A Rail project.

The project would build a new rail line from Fort McMurray, Alta., through the Northwest Territories and Yukon to the Delta Junction in Alaska, where it will connect with existing rail and continue on to ports near Anchorage.

The 2,570-kilometre railway could move cargo like oil, potash and ore, container goods, or even passengers.

Christine Myatt, a spokesperson for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, said in an emailed statement that the premier welcomed the approval.

“The Government of Alberta is glad to see the approval of the A2A rail project in the United States,” she said.

“We support the development of trade corridors that can unlock new markets for Alberta’s products.”

Advantages and disadvantages

Kent Fellows, an economist at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said while oil is likely the main driver for the project, it’s not the only advantage to bringing a rail line up north.

“Rail has some advantages and some drawbacks compared to pipelines,” he said.

“You can diversify a little bit … you don’t just have to haul crude oil. You can hold a lot of other commodities, too, as long as there’s a market for it. So market access is big, not just for crude oil.”

Fellows said as well as carrying Alberta or Yukon goods to international markets, the line could be used for imports, too.

“That’s the whole point of trade. It’s a two-way street.”

Preparing an access road in the next three to six months

The next steps will include going through environmental impact assessments, and obtaining the correct regulatory approvals in both the U.S. and Canada.

In July, the company commissioned an engineering firm to begin surveying land along the Alberta segment of the proposed route. It said it planned to begin field activities like land clearing, fencing and access road preparation in the province in the next three to six months.

“The new rail line will create new economic development opportunities for a wide range of businesses, communities and Indigenous communities in Canada and Alaska,” A2A founder Sean McCoshen said in a release at the time.

CBC News has reached out to the company for comment on the promised approval.

A2A Rail has said that if built, the project will create more than 18,000 jobs for Canadian workers and bring in $60 billion to the country’s GDP through 2040.

CLARIFICATION

A previous version of this story indicated CBC News was the author. In fact the author is Sarah Rieger from CBC News. This version has been corrected.

Related stories around the North:

Canada: Will railway to Alaska solve Alberta’s oil exports conundrum?, Radio Canada International

Norway: Arctic mine signs giant copper contract with a green touch in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Can railway project in Russian North attract bank investment?, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Hot weather continues to cause problems for Sweden’s railways, Radio Sweden

United States: Former Gov. Murkowski to explore creation of Alaska-Canada rail link, Alaska Dispatch News

Sarah Rieger, CBC News

Sarah Rieger, CBC News

Sarah Rieger joined CBC Calgary as an online journalist in 2017. You can reach her by email at sarah.rieger@cbc.ca.

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