Friday, September 29, 2017

Port Mac rail extension is 75% complete; embankment closed for travel

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Port Mac rail extension is 75% complete; embankment closed for travel Matanuska-Susitna Borough

The Port MacKenzie Rail Extension has reached 75 percent completion, but officials say the 32-mile embankment is closed to travel due to increased rates of vandalism.

Officials with the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough said the last segment of the project was cleared in spring 2017 and surveyors continue to install monuments along the entire route. Funding is the chief hurdle to reaching completion of the project, which is 10 years in the making. Mat-Su Borough notes that the project has been funded with voter-approved state general obligation bonds and state appropriation.

Highlights of the project include:

  • With the exception of Segment 2, all other segments have a completed embankment, Little Susitna bridge is complete and Segment 6's north communication tower has been installed.
  • Funding is still required to procure and place crossties, ballast and rail on all segments except Segment 6.
  • The Reddane Road Extension on Segment 2 is scheduled for construction in spring 2018.

Mat-Su officials has to close the project's embankment to travel, citing increased numbers of vandalism and thefts during the past month. The incidents include the rail embankment gates being rammed, stolen and damaged signs, ruts in the embankment, as well as a break-in at the port lessee facility.

In addition to closing the embankment to travel, the borough recently increased patrols along the corridor by borough employees and a security company. Officials say the patrols have been effective at reducing trespassing and criminal activity.

In a statement regarding the embankment closure, Mat-Su Borough wrote, "Responsible residents do not trespass. Please stay out of the 200-foot wide right of way for the rail embankment. Check in with landowners before you go out and recreate or hunt on their lands."

Once completed, the Port Mac rail extension will shorten the distance between the interior of Alaska and the water (roughly 32 rail miles shorter than the port of Anchorage and 140 rail miles shorter than the port of Seward).