Trump says he will issue critical permit for proposed Alaska-Canada railway

 Alaska Railroad, 2017 (KTUU)
Alaska Railroad, 2017 (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Sep. 26, 2020 at 9:16 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - President Donald Trump announced Friday through Twitter that he intends to issue a Presidential Permit for the Alberta to Alaska Railway, or A2A, a proposed project to connect Alaska and Canada by train. The permit would allow the project to cross the US-Canada border.

“Based on the strong recommendation of @SenDanSullivan and @repdonyoung of the Great State of Alaska, it is my honor to inform you that I will be issuing a Presidential Permit for the A2A Cross-Border Rail between Alaska & Canada. Congratulations to the people of Alaska & Canada!” The President wrote.

A2A has existed since 2015, and in 2019, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, and the state legislature advocated for such a permit from the federal government. In a sense, the permit would make or break the project.

“One big fundamental question is whether or not you get to cross the US-Canada border,” said former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, now the A2A’s Alaska Vice Chair. “And that’s become a fundamental question because so many pipelines, for example, have been held up for years over that individual permit.”

However, the permit is not the last piece that needs to fall into place for the project to move forward. Treadwell said the next big steps will be environmental impact statements for both Canada and the US and negotiating with land owners across both countries.

“I would say that a two-year permitting process and review here, and it’s probably going to be about the same in Canada before you could go into construction,” he said. “We’re hoping to be operating sometime before the end of the decade.”

The railway itself would span around 1,600 miles, connecting the Port of Alaska in Anchorage with various stops along its route through Canada. Treadwell said the railway would mainly focus on cargo, as its connection to the port would make it the closest landfall rail to Asia. Such a connection could dramatically speed up delivery of goods, which is one of the reasons Alaskan US Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) stated his support for the project to Trump before its approval, according to a statement from his office.

“The A2A project has the potential to expand Alaska’s transportation system, decrease the cost of goods, provide greater security for food and supplies, and create hundred, if not thousands of good paying jobs for hardworking Alaska families during the construction and operation phases," the statement reads in part.

Young’s office also provided a statement writing in part “the Presidential Permit means this project, and the economic potential it brings, can move forward. I will continue to support the project to its completion and will be doing everything within my power to cut through red tape and bureaucracy.”

Both Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, (R-AK), who the President’s tweet names, are up for re-election in November.

Gov. Dunleavy’s Deputy Communications Director Jeff Turner also provided a written statement from the Governor, writing in part:

“A rail link with Canada and the rest of the country has been a dream for many generations and this announcement is a major milestone in seeing that dream become a reality. Funded by private investment this rail link will be a game changer for Alaska.”

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