A tunnel to peace?

Bering Strait tunnel advocates to make pitch at G8 summit

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2007

Times have changed for the better. We still have radical terrorists waging war against civilized people, but at least the major nations, whose militaries can do some real damage, are seriously talking and doing business with each other in a peaceful, cooperative manner.

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We will win the struggle against terrorists; the civilized people of the world demand it. And the time may come when instead of having the eight most industrialized nations meet in the annual G8 summit, it will be the G18 or G100.

On the agenda for this year's G8, which begins Wednesday at Heiligendamm, Germany, are problems in Africa, free trade, trademark piracy, the Middle East and a half dozen other subjects of international concern.

Russian participation is of interest to Alaskans because the Bering Strait tunnel is strongly supported by the Russians, who have joined with American supporters to present the idea to the G8. Tunnel supporters want more than just to present the idea, they are asking for $120 million to explore it. Some people from Russia's Council for the Study of Productive Forces are assigned to America's Interhemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel & Rail Group, which is to become an international nonprofit corporation organized under Alaska law.

The nonprofit will study the feasibility, environmental considerations and financing sources for the railroad and tunnel; it will not be the builder or operator of the road. The plan is that the builder/operator will be a for-profit, widely held public railroad corporation. Stockholders also would include some governmental jurisdictions.

The Russian group brings to IBSTRG the energy of a strong successful organization. The Council for the Study of Productive Forces is credited with creating the 5,500-mile Trans-Siberian Railway 100 years ago.

In a formal appeal to the G8, tunnel advocates are asking for the money to study the feasibility of what they call "World Link," a tunnel and rail lines that help unite four of the world's six continents. Such uniting tends to reduce fiction among nations as it promotes trade and tourism.

After the G8 meeting, IBSTRG officials have offered to meet with Alaska officials, including Alaska's congressional delegation, to outline the project and report its progress. State and Alaska Railroad officials would be negligent if they didn't at least listen to the group's presentation.

Tunnel advocates defend their project by pointing out it is in a class with such projects as the tunnel between Japan's Honshu and Hokkaido islands, the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark, the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Chunnel under the English Channel and the planned Gibraltar, Bosphorus and Sakhalin tunnels. Incidental, playing on the name Chunnel, the Bering Strait tunnel is already referred to as the Strunnel.

Since an April 24 tunnel meeting in Moscow, railroad service has resumed between the Koreas after 60 years. And the South Koreans emphasize that gives them future access to the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Russians are pushing a railroad from the Trans-Siberian at Yakutsk, via Magadan, to Uelen on the Russian coast of the Bering Strait. The 64-mile tunnel, outlined in www.mperussia.com, crosses the strait to come out at Wales on the Alaska coast. The project is estimated to cost $65 billion and involve construction of 3,700 miles of railway. Promoters say the project could repay its construction cost in 15 years.

There are more than 73,000 entries on Google under "Bering Strait Tunnel" for those seeking more information. The idea wasn't just hatched. An Alaska newspaper editor predicted it 100 years ago. Five years ago, a University of Alaska Fairbanks engineering student identified routes for extending the Alaska Railroad to Wales.

Discussing all of these major transportation projects makes Ketchikan's request for a hard link to Gravina Island, Juneau's desire for a highway up Lynn Canal and the Knik Arm crossing at Anchorage look puny.

Maybe we can get the Russians and IBSTRG to help. We probably could fund our projects with the pennies that fall through the cracks at their table.

Or, after the natural gas pipeline from Alaska is finished, the size of the Strunnel project might not appear so far-fetched, It would be the next big project to bring the world closer together.

• Lew Williams Jr. is a retired publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News.

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