The project begins near North Pole at the Chena River overflow structure (MP 20.18) on the Eielson branch rail line and would terminate in the vicinity of Delta Junction. The route lies within the Tanana River Valley, an area bounded by rugged terrain immediately to the north and east side of the river and by a broad plain ending at the Alaska Range to the south and west of the Tanana River. An environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act was initiated in 2005. The Surface Transportation Board (STB), the lead federal agency responsible for approving new rail lines, considered a number of possible rail alignments and crossing locations, as well as potential environmental impacts, engineering feasibility, and right-of-way concerns. In September 2009, the STB released a final environmental impact statement (EIS).
The ARRC anticipates the construction will occur in four phases starting in 2011:
- Tanana River crossing at Salcha
- Moose Creek to Salcha
- Salcha Crossing to Donnelley segment
- Donnelley to Delta Junction