Since pioneering days, visionaries have spoken of building a railroad to connect Alaska and its riches with the markets served by the North American rail system.
The early pioneers - such as those who built the White Pass or Alaska Railroads - thought of moving gold, ore or timber. The goal of connecting Alaska with the rest of the continent by railroad has not died out - far from it.
I'm proud to join Gov. Frank Murkowski and our congressional delegation in supporting this project. It will require building right around 1,000 miles of track from Eielson AFB near Fairbanks (where the Alaska Railroad ends) to Fort Nelson, B.C. (where the British Columbia Railroad begins).
There are many reasons to build this railroad connection, from moving mineral concentrates to containerized freight to tourists. The way I see it, however, the most pressing reason is the value a railroad will have in construction of a natural gas pipeline.
Railroads move bulk goods long distances at low cost. Having a railroad in place will allow efficiencies that will reduce construction costs on a project where fractions of a cent per mile will make a difference.
Railroads fit well with wilderness and fragile environments because they allow for a small footprint and limited access. It's time to begin work on the "last transcontinental railroad."
This session I am working to pass SB 31, which will allow the Alaska Railroad to obtain state land for extending the railroad to the Canadian border. This legislation does not give away any state money, but it allows the railroad to begin work once other funds become available for the project.