Alaska-Alberta railway explored

Alberta is exploring new ways to get its products to the world, including a proposed railway to Alaska, said premier Jason Kenney.

His government “will support and facilitate in a politically, legally and in a regulatory way any increased access to global markets, not only for our energy products, but for products generally,” he told members of the governing United Conservative Party (UCP).

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The Alaska-Alberta Railway Development Corp., or A2A, is a Calgary-based company that seeks to join the existing North American rail network to that of Alaska. The US$17-billion project is headed by founder and chair Sean McCoshen, who has said $100 million has already been invested in things such as engineering reports and studies.

Although the proposed 2,570-kilometre route starts in Delta Junction, Alaska, and ends in the oilsands region of Fort McMurray, Alta., the railway will ship everything from oil to grain, as well as refrigerated goods ranging from vegetables and dairy products to meat and fruit, said a recent statement by A2A.

It will connect Alaska’s deep water ports to existing rail lines in northern Alberta, shortening shipping times across the Pacific to Asia by as much as two to four days, it said. The project will also lower transportation costs through northwestern Canada, as well as transit costs across the Pacific, it said.

Although United States President Donald Trump recently issued a presidential permit to lay track across the Alaskan border into Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned the project can’t proceed until it first passes a Canadian review under the federal Bill C-69. About 300 kilometres of the proposed route is in Alaska, with 2,270 kilometres in Canada, said A2A’s statement.

The company estimates the railway “could unlock $60 billion in additional cumulative gross domestic product through 2040 and create more than 28,000 jobs,” said McCoshen in the statement. “In addition, A2A will lift household incomes by an average of 40 percent in the communities we pass through in northwestern Canada and Alaska.”

The project will “increase the competitiveness of Canadian and American products by providing more efficient transportation alternatives,” said the statement. The company expects to finish construction on the railway by 2025 and to be fully operational in 2026, with soft construction starting this year, it said.

Kenney said a second consortium is separately advocating for an Alaska to Alberta railway, but he did not provide further details.

During an Oct. 24 session of the UCP annual general meeting held online, Kenney was asked if there was a push to promote initiatives such as A2A, the Northwest Passage and other trade routes to not only get products to market, but to bring raw materials to Alberta to manufacture finished goods.

The premier said such initiatives are why MLA Shane Getson was appointed to lead a task force on energy and resource corridors, adding these could include Hudson’s Bay via the port of Churchill, Man.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said in February he was open to holding discussions about an oil pipeline advocated for by provincial leaders such as Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

Meetings have been held with prospective partners, said Kenney, who did not indicate if it involved a pipeline or the existing rail link.

“There are a number of First Nations in Northern Manitoba, the government of Manitoba and commercial partners who are keen at making Hudson’s Bay a much more important port for Western products,” he said.

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