A railway project to connect Alaska with Canada — and potentially — the lower 48 could pave the way for thousands of new jobs. 

The Alaska Railroad Corporation and the Alaska to Alberta Railway Development Corporation (A2A) have established a cooperation agreement to pursue the project, which would allow for dual-direction movement of freight. At the height of construction, the partners say it could provide up to 3,500 jobs.

"You're talking about building 200 miles of track in Alaska. You're talking about building about 1,300 miles of track in Canada. That is going to need, just for one thing, you're going to need to move 17 billion cubic feet of gravel to have that roadbed for the track, lots of other work, sidings and so forth" said former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, now a consultant for A2A. "It's a big construction job that will be about a three-year job once we get the permits."

With the cooperation agreement in place, Treadwell says A2A is now aiming for project completion within the next five to seven years. 

Besides construction jobs, he says the railway could also open up opportunities for ancillary employment. 

"You've got lots of operating jobs, engineers, track maintenance, fixing cars, that sort of thing" Treadwell said. "It would be good for the Mat-Su Port, it would be good for the Port of Alaska here in Anchorage, it would be good for Fairbanks. I think it's going to be very significant for the state as a long-term employer."

The total price tag for the railway project sits at about $13 billion, $3 billion of which would be spent in Alaska. Treadwell says A2A isn't asking for any state funding. 

"I got involved with this project because it's the first time really in the history that there's been enough potential cargo to pay for the railroad in the private sector," Treadwell said. 

In April, Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked President Donald Trump for a presidential permit to extend the Alaska rail line into Alberta. The Alaska Senate also passed a resolution in support of a federal border permit to allow a railroad crossing to be built between the state and Canada.

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