Recent History 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak, 13 April 2005
The steel wheels are slowly turning towards a multi-billion rail link between Alaska and British Columbia. With the aim of getting in on the ground floor of the mammoth engineering project, Dawson Creek sent a delegation to last week’s
Alaska-Canada Rail Corridor Conference in Prince George.
“I think the main thrust of it was certainly that the U.S. delegation, the state of Alaska is definitely committed,” said Mayor Wayne Dahlen adding that both the Yukon delegation and the British Columbia delegation also showed enthusiasm towards the project.
Recently the Canadian federal government has agreed to join the U.S. to fund an in depth feasibility study of the project.The concept is to build a railroad along the route of the proposed Alaska pipeline to assist in building it and facilitate the exploration of resources throughout Alaska, Yukon and Northern B.C.
“People are of the mind now that the pipeline will happen and it will go along the Alaska Highway corridor,” said councillor Paul Gevatkoff, who attended the conference along with Dahlen, and councillors Calvin Kruk and Brent Neumann. “The pipe is 50 inches wide and it is an inch and a quarter thick and I think it weighs about 800 pounds per foot. So, to move that kind of pipe they are going to need a railroad.”
The project, estimated to cost anywhere between $5 billion and $10 billion with funding from both federal governments and possibly private interests, is still in its infancy. The crucial decision of what route it will take through British
Columbia is still up for discussion.
One of the two possible routes being discussed is for the line to follow the Alaska Highway, which would be beneficial to communities along the corridor. The other possibility is a more westerly route through Dease Lake. Although the conference wasn’t designed to choose a route, Dahlen said that the Dawson Creek delegation did what it could to emphasize the benefits of the Alaska Highway option.
“I had a chance to speak at the luncheon on Thursday and I did certainly make a pitch for the Alaska Highway route,” said Dahlen. “I might say the City of Dawson Creek had the strongest delegation there.”
Gevatkoff agreed that supporters of both routes are already making their cases.
“The lobbying is starting,” he said. “You can see that.”
Although driving the first spike is many years down the road according to even the most optimistic estimates, Gevatkoff believes that the time is right to take a proactive approach.
“It is a huge challenge,” he said. “They compare it to the John A. McDonald days when B.C. wanted a wagon trail, he said ‘lets build a railroad’. You couldn’t justify it that day or that year, or for 10 years, but today we couldn’t do without it.”