Railway feasibility study under wraps

After two years and more than $2 million dollars, the Yukon/Alaska railway feasibility study is finished. But no one can see it.

After two years and more than $2 million dollars, the Yukon/Alaska railway feasibility study is finished.

But no one can see it.

“When we are ready, we will table for the public the information pertinent to the study,” said Premier Dennis Fentie on Wednesday.

The study was commissioned in partnership with Alaska.

And before unveiling it, Fentie plans to meet with the state’s governor.

Trouble is, Alaska’s government changed while the study was being carried out.

And the new governor isn’t devoted to the project.

“It was (governor Frank) Murkowski’s pet project,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, on Thursday.

“But it’s low on governor (Sarah) Palin’s radar screen.”

“While the Alaska railroad is an important part of the infrastructure in Alaska, a line to Canada is not a priority project for my administration at this time,” said Palin in a media release in early May.

Fentie plans to meet with Palin “in due course.”

And this means?

“In due course — forthwith,” Fentie repeated.

The 1,932-kilometre rail line linking the two regions would cost an estimated $11 to $13 billion, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks’s researcher Paul Metz, who drew on feasibility study drafts.

“The railway feasibility study is a boondoggle,” said Mitchell.

Alaska got it’s $3 million to co-fund the study from the US government, he said.

But the Yukon government didn’t get its funding from Ottawa.

“It drew from its own revenue for the $3 million.”

Building the railway will be a multi-billion dollar project and the Yukon can’t do it on its own, he added.

“Either it gets private-sector support, or the Canadian and US federal governments fund it, like they did the Alaska Highway during World War Two.

“And so far, there’s been no private-sector support.”

Throw in Alaska’s regime change, and things look bleak, said Mitchell.

But Fentie isn’t fazed.

“I’m very encouraged and excited about the overall work we were able to accomplish in partnership with Alaska,” he said.

“It’s a study to look at all the elements of possibility should someone decide that building a railway in a north-south trajectory makes sense.

“What we’re going to provide is data that would contribute to what would be a very informed decision.”

It’s touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread, said Mitchell.

“So when do we get to see it.

“Every time the (Yukon Party) gets something they don’t like, they just hide it,” he added, citing education reform position papers and Holdfast Consultant’s reports on the various needs of Whitehorse schools.

“The (railway feasibility) study includes hundreds and hundreds of pages of technical data,” said Fentie.

“It’s far beyond our level of expertise.

“Therefore, when we are ready, we will make it public.

“You’ve got to understand what it is we’re dealing with here — this is not just a study to establish a crosswalk across the street.” 

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