Wednesday, January 6, 2010
My family has been involved with the railroad in Alaska numerous times, beginning with my father. During World War II, my father left his home, his wife and six children to look for work. He ended up in Alaska digging railroad tunnels through the mountain from Portage to Whittier. He went home for a few months and then returned to Alaska a second time to work on the railroad. Many years later, Dad was thrilled to take my mother, my youngest sister, myself and some of my children on the train to Whittier to show us where he worked. Several of my children worked on the railroad as young adults to earn money for college. The hours were long and the work was difficult but the pay was good. The Alaska Railroad was owned and operated by the federal government for more than sixty years. Ronald Reagan signed the legislation in 1983 that transferred ownership of the railroad to Alaska. This year on January 5 Alaska celebrated twenty-five years of ownership of the nation's only full service (passengers and freight) railroad. The people of Alaska are the real owners of this railroad, but it is run by Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC), a self-sustaining State of Alaska corporation, which is overseen by a seven-member, governor-appointed board of directors. Alaska paid the federal government $22.3 million for the Alaska Railroad. This price included 655 miles of track, 38,000 acres of land including all rights-of-way, four terminals, and 1,545 units of rolling stock including locomotives, freight cars and passenger cars. Total railroad assets were valued at $37.2 million in January 1985. The value was reported to be $854.1 million by December 31, 2008. In January 1985, the revenues of the railroad were $61 million. Annual revenues had grown to $180.4 million by the end of 2008. New locomotives and passenger cars have been added, new facilities have been built, the Whittier Tunnel was opened to vehicle traffic, and other capital and operational improvements have been made. The acquisition of the Alaska Railroad was a good decision twenty-five years ago. It should remain a valuable property for the people of the great State of Alaska for many years in the future.