- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Alaska’s newest, longest bridge is almost complete but its immediate future is uncertain because the Alaska Railroad lacks funds to connect it to Fort Greely.

Mark Peterburs, project director for the Tanana River Northern Rail Extension, said the 3,300-foot bridge will be completed on time and under its $156 million budget.

“I’m feeling a little sad that it’s coming to an end,” he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1rPUBby). “Mostly probably because it’s been pretty successful - if it was a disaster, I’d probably be happy to put it behind me.”

The bridge is key part of a four-phase project to connect military training grounds near Delta Junction to Fairbanks by rail.

The Department of Defense contributed $104 million and the state kicked in $84 million, which paid for environmental studies, bridge design and construction.

Work began in August 2011.

Dump trucks delivered 410,000 tons of fill material. The bridge’s 19 piers required 12,000 yards of concrete. The bridge was declared 94 percent complete last week and much of the remaining work will be hauling off gravel and steel. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 5.

Other phases of the project are less certain.

The next phase would build about 13 miles of railroad track. After that would come work to extend the rail to training ranges near Fort Greely. Funding for those phases is not in hand, railroad spokeswoman Stephenie Wheeler said by email. The projected cost is $100 million to $150 million.

“Obtaining funding is a challenge due to the ongoing federal sequester and state budget issues,” Wheeler said.

The completed bridge may an incentive for state and federal lawmakers to fund for the rest of the project, Peterburs said.

“We’d like to say we delivered a project on time and on budget,” Peterburs said. “We hope that says something.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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