Money to complete Nenana bridge
The U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $9.1 million grant to the Nenana Native Association to complete a partly-built bridge across the Nenana River. This is strategic infrastructure because it opens up access to potential agricultural lands and areas with oil and gas potential west of the river. Nenana is 60 miles southwest of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway. The grant is through the 2018
federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development program, which works to aid infrastructure development. The project actually involves two bridges, one over the Nenana River itself and
the other over Nenana Slough. Access to 900,000 acres of agricultural, forest and oil and gas lands would have better access. Doyon Ltd., the Fairbanks Native regional development corporation, has also been exploring for oil and gas in the area. The city of
Nenana received $9.5 million in mostly-state grants in 2012 that allowed the bridge to be partly built, but project delays and the collapse of state revenues put the project on the shelf until now.
Mat-Su’s rail project still pending
Another project that may land a federal infrastructure grant this year is the 30-mile rail extension from existing Alaska Railroad tracks at Houston to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s Port MacKenzie,
on Knik Arm of upper Cook Inlet. The extension is about half completed overall with the berm for tracks built along most of the route a siding with rails built for the connection at Houston. The cost of completion is estimated at $125 million but the borough, working with a development company and its consultants, AECON and HDR, believe costs could be reduced to $85 million through modifications of the project. If built, the extension would shorten the route for commodities such as coal or bulk miner al ores would have to be shipped to an export port compared with the shipping distance to Seward, now the commodities export port used by shippers.