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Alaska Connection Infrastructure
April 7, 2021
by William P. Meyers

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America Needs a New Home, and it is Alaska

Global warming is coming, even if some steps to slow it are taken. America is discussing Joe Biden's Jobs and Infrastructure bill, which is a good thing, but it is thinking too small. Much of the Lower 48 states are going to become uninhabitable in the next 50 years. But we have a place we could go: Alaska. Wise planning would start building the infrastructure to get Americans to Alaska, and to house them there, and to move much of our industry there, now.

There is now no major highway that directly connects the State of Washington to the southern part of Alaska, nor is there a four-lane highway system that connects the various regions or cities of Alaska. No railroad to speak of either. While sea routes offer some connectivity, they are apt to disruption by weather events. To move a significant portion of the population of the United States to Alaska we need a four lane highway with two sets of railroad tracks running from Seattle to Juneau then west to Anchorage and then further west to the southwest Alaska coast.

The cost of such a project would be staggering, but much of that cost involves paying the multitude of workers needed to build it. So it can be sold as a jobs project.

There would need to be coordination with Canada. To build such a route and then let Canada retain the right to close the borders, as it has during the pandemic, would be folly. The current route through Canada to Alaska makes no sense for the project. Even a new, more direct route will cover a distance through Canada similar to the length of California. The point is not just to provide better access to Alaska, but to make new living centers for Americans displaced by climate change. Some of those cities, along a route built with American money, might well be in British Columbia, if Canadians are amenable. We might prescribe that new cities be built at set intervals along the road. New cities could be built with the best ecological principles, with modern, low-energy use buildings well away from flooding coastal areas.

There are some drawbacks. In the short run the project would add to carbon dioxide emissions. Two of the main infrastructure building materials are iron and concrete. Iron is made from iron ore, generally by cooking it with coal, which releases carbon dioxide. Cement is made largely from calcium carbonate, releasing carbon dioxide in the process. Doubtless some trees will need to be cut down to make the corridor and the new cities. Wildlife impacts can be mitigated by providing animal crossings at frequent intervals along the highway.

It is a big, expensive project, but all that is needed today is funding for planning and surveying.

It is getting hot. People can live in deadly hot climates, if they use air-conditioning or hide during the day. But moving to a more temperate climate will be attractive to many. The rate of sea rise is not great in any given year, but it is likely to accelerate, meaning many of our coastal cities will be inundated in the coming decades. One of the nice things about coastal cities is that they do not get as hot as landlocked cities. Rather than move inland a bit, why not move to the coast of Alaska?

Alaska has a land area of 571,951 square miles. Its population is under 1 million. With the right infrastructure it will easily be able to accomodate tens of millions of Americans. Given climate change, it is likely that will happen one way or another. The smart way is to start building the infrastructure as soon as possible.

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Copyright 2021 William P. Meyers. All rights reserved.