Thursday, January 11, 2018

Task force to evaluate Alaskan commuter rail

Written by 
Task force to evaluate Alaskan commuter rail File photo

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signed an order establishing the governor's Commuter Rail Advisory Task Force on Jan. 9.



The group will consist of nine members and is being formed to evaluate the possibility of a commuter rail service connecting Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska, according to the office of the governor.

The lone ground transportation link that connects the two communities currently sees an average of 50,000 drivers commuting daily, the office said.

"Anyone who drives on the Glenn Highway knows all too well that we need an alternative way to move between Alaska's two largest population centers," Gov. Walker said. "This new group will make sure our rail system is reaching its full potential."

The task force is expected to build upon prior research done by the Department of Transportation as well as drawing from Alaska Railroad Corporation information and other resources.

Results of the study will determine estimates of initial and ongoing capital costs, expected operating costs, potential ridership, a recommended governance structure, and economic benefits of a commuter rail such as cutting costs on road maintenance, lowering emissions and more.

Initial findings are due to the governor by May 31, his office said.

Several municipality mayors will serve on the task force, in addition to the director of the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions, a representative from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and two members of the public who have expertise in transportation, officials said.

The transportation and commerce commissioners will also serve as non-voting members of the task force.

Officials note that task force members will not be paid, however, per diem and travel expenses will be covered for members who are not government employees.

Funding in the governor's proposed capital budget related to this initiative will only be spent if the task force recommends moving forward with a pilot project following the completion of their analysis.