The Daily Mail of London reports that Russian officials are resurrecting an idea championed by the late Gov. Wally Hickel: linking Asia and North America with a 65-mile-long undersea rail tunnel across the Bering Strait at a cost of nearly $100 billion.
The tunnel, linking Uelen on the Russian side with Nome on the Alaskan side, would surface twice on Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands. The 15-year project was proposed by the Kremlin this week at a three-day economic conference in Yakutsk on utilizing the resources of the Russian Far East.
“We should see advanced development of road and rail infrastructure here (in the Russian Far East) and improvement in the investment climate in Russia as a key aim,” Aleksandr Levinthal, deputy federal representative for the Russian Far East, told The Times of London.Tsar Nicholas II suggested bridging the strait between Russia and Alaska in 1905 as a diplomatic overture, but the idea of a rail tunnel as an economic engine was brought up in 2007 with enthusiastic support from Hickel.
“It’s time to proclaim, ’Workers -- Unite the world!”’ Hickel said to reporters.
The renewed proposal has received global media attention, fueling speculation about the possibility of crossing three continents -- Europe, Asia and North America -- by booking a train ticket from London to New York City. Travelers would pass beneath the English Channel to France through the Chunnel, a rail tunnel only half the length of the planned Russia-Alaska link.
Several obstacles to the project remain, including the need to build hundreds of miles of rail linking Uelen to the Trans-Siberian Railway and Nome to major North American railheads in Canada. There are also economic concerns about North American markets being flooded with cheap Siberian natural resources.