ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — This week, the Alaska State Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. Secretary of State to approve permits for the development of a railway that would connect Alaska and Canada.
Approval from the State Department is a prerequisite for infrastructure development connecting U.S. states to foreign soil.
While the resolution — SJR 11 — awaits consideration in the House, Gov. Dunleavy is pushing for a decision from the White House, to which he sent a formal request in February.
Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, chair of Alaska's Senate Transportation Committee, feels that now is the time to make the move on the project.
"It would be a great boost to our economy," Hughes said. "It really could open up the doors for hundreds of jobs and it's great that it doesn't take up any state dollars."
Hughes told KTUU that the transportation of bitumen (asphalt) alone would make the railway cost effective for Alaska, and would translate to more cargo moving through Alaska's ports to and from Asian markets.
The $17 billion price tag wouldn't be footed by Alaska or the U.S.
A2A Rail, a Canadian railway company, has proposed that it can fund 1,700 miles of track in Canada and an additional 200 miles on the U.S. side, sparing Alaska from incurring any of the development costs.
Another company, G7G Railway, is also involved in discussions about the project.
While Alaska lawmakers say there's no clear indication whether or not either company will be involved, former Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell — a consultant for A2A — says A2A has already begun talks with Alaska Railroad Corporation.
Treadwell says he hopes a preliminary agreement might be reached when board members meet in May. He also voiced optimism that recent activity from the Trump administration would make it easier to earn a permit for projects like the Alaska-Canada railway.
Alaska Railroad Director of External Affairs Tim Sullivan confirmed to KTUU on Wednesday that talks are ongoing between AKRR and A2A Rail.