A rail line serving the Port MacKenzie area has been considered for nearly 30 years. In 2003, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough commissioned a rail corridor study, which developed various alignment alternatives.
In 2003, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough completed a preliminary study of road and rail corridor alternatives that would connect Port MacKenzie to the 470-mile Alaska Railroad main line. A total of 11 corridors were identified and evaluated for that study.
The Port MacKenzie Rail Project corridor was then reevaluated in 2007 in the Preliminary Environmental and Alternatives Report (PEAR), a comprehensive report produced by the Railroad, contractors, and the Borough. In mid-January 2008, the MSB and the ARRC submitted the PEAR to the STB.
On Feb. 12, 2008, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which kicked off the formal environmental review process required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The STB held scoping meetings in Knik, Big Lake, Willow, Houston, Wasilla, and Anchorage in March 2008.
The STB, the lead federal agency responsible for approving new rail line, issued a Draft EIS on March 16, 2010. The Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) of the STB released the Final Environmental Impact Statement on March 25, 2011. The Final EIS recommended the Mac Central and Houston South as the proposed route for the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension.