Gallery: Russia Green Lights $65 Billion Siberia-Alaska Rail and Tunnel...

Photo © Al-Janabi

In what could certainly be one of the boldest infrastructure developments ever announced, the Russian Government has given the go-ahead to build a transcontinental railway linking Siberia with North America. The massive undertaking would traverse the Bering Strait with the world’s longest tunnel – a project twice the length of the Chunnel between England and France. The $65 billion project aims to feed North America with raw goods from the Siberian interior and beyond, but it could also provide a key link to developing a robust renewable energy transmission corridor that feeds wind and tidal power across vast distances while linking a railway network across 3/4 of the Northern Hemisphere.

The idea is actually not very new — Tsar Nicholas II dreamed of the railway and tunnel in 1905. The on-again off-again scheme would provide a vital economic resource for both Asia and Americas by providing an efficient link of not only goods and passengers but also fiber optic cables and transmission lines. The key is a 65-mile-long tunnel that would pass underneath the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands in the Bering Strait. The tunnel, at a projected cost of $10-12 billion, is to be built in three sections and would cross the International Date Line, reconnecting the two land masses.

The high speed railway and tunnel will be a private public partnership whose economic impact could be startling. 100 million tons of freight could be moved per year using the most efficient known way of transport. Proposed tidal energy plants could provide 10 gigawatts of energy and a string of wind power fields could churn a constant supply of clean energy, serving as a vital link to a worldwide energy grid. The tunnel alone would take fifteen years to complete — and an energy and railway network would take many more — but the project would significantly change the shipping and energy industry.

In a time of austere measures by governments throughout the world we hear less and less of large-scale projects, but the economic and environmental benefits of developing critical infrastructure links is a key element to 21st century environmentally sound economic growth.

Via The Times and World Architecture News

Lead Photo © Al-Janabi


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  1. Cyrus Parker March 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Russia and America should have forged a positive relationship years ago.

  2. WINTPU_TORONTO November 15, 2014 at 10:36 am


  3. Sarah Goodwich August 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    A tunnel’s way better than a bridge; anything bigger than a train is better off on a ship. Anyway I have an idea for an dam that only requires a wall of minimal thickness, I hope they’ll have the sense to buy it.

  4. Terry Walton July 12, 2014 at 1:33 am

    Rev. Sun Myung Moon proposed this as part of his vision of an International Highway which would allow one to drive from New York to South Africa. In addition to the Bering Strait tunnel, he also proposed a tunnel between Japan and South Korea. It looks like at least one government is taking his idea seriously.

  5. VAGENT May 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    I believe if a tunnel could connect Alaska and Russia, it could be a start of trust between our two countries. Especially if it allowed tourisum between the two countries and perhaps even into China. When people of different cultures mingle it can change how one culture sees the other. Tourist spend money and then too it helps when people see the beautiful parts of other countries etc. Most countries of the world only want peace and a future for their children. It’s time to turn weapons into plows and give the children of the world, a future without fear of bombs falling on their heads. Open the wonders of our small world to them. People, not Politicians can make the difference. Connection, not isolation,can make for a great future in our world.

  6. Pat Kittle February 20, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Just because something can be built doesn’t mean it should be.

    We can’t even afford to maintain our current infrastructure. Our bridges are literally collapsing, and maintenance becomes ever more deferred.

    Our trade deficit is already maxed out.

    The ecological impact of this project would be hellacious.

    More cooperation with the Russians would be great, but not on this.

  7. bb48 February 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Wow, a major tunnel project between to tectonic plates in an arena known as the “ring of fire”! I love it when a plan comes together…

  8. zoyanot February 9, 2014 at 11:48 am

    The tunnel will be constructed, maybe two tunnels. It\\\’s a must have! Imagine the future with world travelers able to reach UK, China, Russia, and beyond at will. Eventually world population will demand it and Siberia, while a bit chilly, will become host to a brave new world. I think people basically like each other and the money saved from arms and ammo could pay all costs of bridges, connection roadways, infrastructure, (all), without a hiccup. Warmongers begone!

  9. mascmen7 December 22, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Rail line has reached Yakutsk on the east side of the Lena River which is 2km wide and Yakutsk is on the western side of the river where any bridge or tunnel must begin as water is needed as is electricity,trucks and tools. Magadan by 2016 a seaport and then on to Anadyr and Uelen where the tunnel to Nome. Alaska will begin. From Nome a 500 mile rail line must be built to connect to Canadian rail lines. Darien Gap in Colombia must have a rail line built also. USA is derelict in not helping at present in speeding up this project wasting money on windmills, solar panels and electric cars all of which have been failures. Tracks in USA are 4 feet 8.5 inches. Russian tracks are 5 1/2 feet.

  10. Prince Moghul November 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    When will be completed???

    Russia Green Lights $65 Billion Siberia-Alaska Rail and Tunnel to Bridge the Bering Strait!

  11. Överheten August 30, 2013 at 12:29 am

    I see there are some recent comments here. Seriously? Some of you actually think the US and Russians want to destroy each other? I do not know a soul here in the US has a bit of animosity toward Russia. It is about time we face that we would be better off as allies.

  12. Homsar April 11, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Nobody in “England” (or anywhere else in the United Kingdom) calls it the “Chunnel”. Only Americans do that.

  13. alen March 2, 2013 at 12:31 am

    Isnt this topic missing a huge point another opposing reality, like the relations between the us and russias armed forces, and the nuclear bombs the us has pointed at russia as well as the bases. What would happen in case of a war It would be used to send armanents, or it would be destroyed. Only recently the us gov said it is strengthening its missiles in east and west us and alaska. So this idea should remain only an idea, until Russia and Us become firm friends,and Us removes the nuke bases it has in europe, turkey and alaska and elsewhere aimed at Russia, as well as the nuke armed subs the US has and vice versa for Russia.And only when Nato has been dismantled, and a europe,russia, northamerica wide treaty of non aggression and coopeartion, is in place should this idea be taken seriously.

  14. NatureGuy February 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    That’s a pretty long under-sea tunnel…..located along the “Ring of Fire” ….I wouldn’t want to be an employee down there (either constructing such a tunnel or as an equipment(train)operator. (maybe it would be entirely automated….no train crew.)

  15. vmk7t5 February 11, 2013 at 7:10 am

    The only railway link in Alaska is:Fairbanks- Anchorage-Seawards. If Russia has the courage to link Alaska to the lower 48 states, then Russia would achieve a dream that neither the US and Canada combined are able to complete, despite their combined efforts for years now?????….

  16. mascmen7 January 2, 2013 at 2:15 am

    Rail line has reached Yakutsk and continuing to Magadan by 2016 near Moma which has a 6,000 foot concrete runway.

  17. danmckenna1961 September 22, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    A joint venture with Russia is a Win / Win for everyone, not sure if a road would be feasible. Weather conditions would prevent a bridge and a tunnel at 65 miles would need some verticle exhaust vents throughout the structure.

  18. Mr. RT July 13, 2012 at 1:13 am

    The idea of building a bridge or tunnel across the Bering Strait is not profitable. With the English-French Chunnel a 21 mile tunnel connects 2 “CLOSE” economic powerhouses. The Bering Stait connection connects 2 countries whose main commercial centers are thousands of miles apart- from western US to Western Russia.
    Even China is thousands of miles from the proposed connection.
    Also- a very expensive addition would be needed to build an adequate road structure through eastern siberia and to upgrade the road system in Alaska and western Canada to make the Bering Strait connection be worthwhile.

  19. Pat Ruckert April 7, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Proposals for the tunnel go back more than 100 years. It was a serious proposal during World War II. There have been multiple conferences in the last decade on the project. It is not a stand alone project. It assumes that it will be a partnership between the three nations with the high speed rail or maglev connecting the lower 48. Freight from Chicago to Beijing would arrive much faster than a ship from Los Angeles. Here is a link on one of the conference reports:

  20. Fedupvoter February 25, 2012 at 1:08 am

    A lot of people don’ give Gov. Plain credit for having the foresight to be involved in the movement of the Russians to get involved in this project. The only thing that would stop it would be our way of over studying every detail. I live in Reading Pa. And over 20 years ago our useless Gov. Rendell promised that he would have a commuter train to Philadelphia approx. 40-50 miles, well guess what, it is still being studied, and I could see the same thing with the Siberian- Alaska rail line.

  21. seppigio December 30, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I would like to see the modern evacuated tube transport system instead of a new traintrack.

  22. HoppeM October 14, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    This sounds more like a great way to transport troops to me…the Russian’s would have loved to have a freeway directly into western Europe during WWII. Would have made travel for their tanks much easier…

  23. BikerDad September 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    The most energy efficient form of transportation is river transport. Just float it down. The most economically efficient form of transportation is river transport. Just float it down. Going up river, not quite as energy efficient, but still more economically efficient.

    Rivers of course have limits cause they don’t go everywhere. Railroads can go more places than rivers go. Railroads, however, are a lot more expensive to build. You don’t have to build rivers.

    Methinks the authors probably meant to specificy that railroads are the most efficient/economical method of LAND transportation, which is true. They are not, however, nearly as flexible as trucks.

    All that said, the Bering Strait Connection (whether by bridge, tunnel, or combination) is a long way off, precisely because for all practical purposes, it’s a connection between Nowhere and Nowhereski.

    Without looking at exactly what the Russki’s are planning, my guess is they are going to be significantly improving their infrastracture through Siberia to tap the natural resources, and simply shipping the resources to Japan and North America from Eastern Pacific ports and running ’em by rail to China.

  24. rich RlCH September 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    The Bering Strait Tunnel if I may correct myself. It’s stuck in my memory. When I type it, I think of the term “it” and I type it, as ‘bridge’, the one I’ve remembered for years, until I recently heard about the Tunnel.

  25. rich Rich September 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    With the Bering Strait Bridge, they could make money if they allow travelers to use it and they charge of course. But also it would be used for ‘shipping’ freight, and connecting the oil supply. They’ll make money at a much higher rate than with the Transatlantic Tunnel, if it were built. And I have an idea how the tunnel part could be completed in under 10 years. I wish they knew with the same fast method, the Bering Strait Tunnel alone could be built in less than a year. Too bad the railroad lines would be many times longer, take longer and cost much more to build. But with the fast built tunnel method, there could even be a way to finish the railroad system faster. Too bad with only a high school diploma, I would never catch their interest with my ideas. Oh, and by the way- the zone in the Bering Strait is stabled. It may be the international dateline, the natural dateline is over in Russia. In Khabarovsk and Sakha It’s how far the North American plate extends, Despite the continents’ and nations’ boundaries.

  26. Steve in Alaska September 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

    In addition to the comments above noting that there is no connection to the rest of the North American rail system from Alaska, the author states that rail is the most efficient transportation. Tell that to the steamship guys! Container ships are much more efficient over 1000 miles or so on a cost per ton-mile basis.

    If there were enough freight to move that way, you would move it south in Russia to a year-round port or spend a few hundred million to make a more northern port usable all year. Then you would load the freight to ships for the west coast of the U.S. It would be far less costly in terms of both initial capital and ongoing expense.

    If there were enough freight to move in either direction and it made economic sense, it would already be moving.

    Not only is this idea nonsensical from an economic development and investment standpoint,it is probably just plain false. Is it possible that the Russian government “greenlighted” this project without having high level meetings and some sort of agreement with the U.S., Canada and Alaska? Since no one has heard of those meetings, the odds are that some one made this up whole cloth.

  27. dontlikeussrrussia August 30, 2011 at 4:20 am

    NO NO NO..
    not good idea about alaska tunnel to ussr russia..
    NO WAY..
    dont let america pay to building tunnel from alaska to ussr russia

  28. johnwerneken August 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    wak88 u have got 2 b kiddin. i hope. but considering how id10t and citizen have come to describe the same folks…

  29. wak88 August 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    If we learned anything from the end of the film 28 Days Later, it’s that trans-continental tunnels make it far too difficult to contain zombie outbreaks. I think we should reconsider this for the sake of our children.

  30. caribousteaks August 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Wont happen. No road or rail link to Nome. Nor will there be. No rail link to Canada either. Does Russian not think Alaska already has natural resources in abundance? Actually we do. We are fighting the Federal Government to get at them I suppose is our problem. But any notion of “high speed” is ridiculous. Where in North America exists “high speed”? It doesn’t. So given the death rate of moose on the Alaska Railroad in winter I think 20-40mph will be the top speed of any pipe dream train the russians could dream up. Simply put, Alaska cannot even get its own pipeline refilled, let alone build a gas line intra or inter-state. With 700,000 people and dwindling natural resource exports despite being overloaded with them the likelihood of any rail to Nome or the Strait is ZERO! But then again if the Russkies are keen and want to pay for it all…..? ha, wouldn’t that be funny. Sorry , not in a million years. Hmmm train to Siberia from Seattle…in say 5 days or fly there in 1? Cost of operation versus profit made from freight and passengers? Nope , not a chance. Bring on the tar sands baby~!

  31. DRogers199 August 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Curious to know who the companies are who will be building this. If anyone knows… please write Thanks.

  32. rijobo August 29, 2011 at 11:40 am

    sounds great how do i get in on this. something possitive for a change. Can you imagine all the jobs this would create? Granted thet built the brooklyn bridge in 1900’s but they managed to keep H2O out successfully. and all the other tunnells around the world . I see no reason this could not be done.

  33. Phyllis Sullivan August 29, 2011 at 12:38 am

    building a tunnel across the Bering Strait does not get one anywhere. It would be about 75 miles to Nome, and then where are you? The northern point of the Alaska Railroad is Fairbanks, about 600 miles east of Nome. There is no road across there, much less a railroad. The Railroad does not go to Canada, it goes to Seward, Alaska, straight south of Fairbanks, maybe another 600 miles. One will not be able to drive without a whole lot of road building on the Alaska side of the Strait. I don’t think that’s going to happen in our lifetime, anyway.

  34. JakeBlanton August 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Sage123183, you still can’t drive all the way from North America to South American. There’s a portion down in Central America that you need to ship your vehicle around it. It’s call the Darien Gap…

  35. DaveMElliott August 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    What a sad commentary on the U.S. 30 years of cheering on those who broke up and sold off what previous generations had built so that our once-foe is greater than us. Putin must be laughing his ass off. We’ll need the railroad for the Russians to send their welfare food supplies to us.

  36. JakeBlanton August 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    There is currently no ferry service from Alaska to Russia because the road infrastructure in Russia in that area is basically non-existent. From what I’ve gathered, the only way to make it across that part of Russia currently is in the winter when the ground is frozen and even then, it’s going to require a vehicle that is *very* off-road capable. What would be great would be if you could put your car or motorcycle on a “ferry train” and travel between Alaska and Russia.

  37. BillinCO August 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    The Times article this article is based on was published in 2007. I’m all for it, but there haven’t been any new developments since the 2007 announcement, have there?

  38. blocker August 28, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Also they need to go ahead with the geosynchronous satellite anchored to earth base idea so that I could ride the elevator to space.

  39. Sage123183 August 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    It is about time; long have I been dreaming of a bridge over or under the Bering strait. They need to also build a road with it, so a person can literally drive around the world! Imagine being able to drive from, say, Florida, to Paris France! Hell of a toll road. But it could be done. Also, intercontinental trucking would be a possibility–the economic repercussions are astronomical. BUILD A ROAD TOO!!!! Who’s with me?

  40. kbeyer August 27, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    We’ve bandied about the concept of the Mackenzie Valley pipleine in Canada for better than 30 years. The environmental assessment continues still. Projects of this magnitude require forward thinking and progressive governments to not only be in place, but to remain in place. This newest, proposed conintental link is a natural progession of world trade and should be embraced as a another step towards true peace on earth.
    My concern would be the real prospect of earthquakes. This seems to be too great a danger to allow this project to proceed. Perhaps a design can be acheived to overcome the threat. It seems unlikely.
    But what optimisim this project is! It is inspiring.
    Best wishes to all from Beautiful British Columbia.

  41. Stevious August 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

    One word: Earthquake (or will it be a rubber tunnel?)

  42. dxp August 27, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Electrical Engineer here. The issue of power loss across the tunnel is minor. There are already much much longer lines than that length all over the world. Loss in the line is minimal. Most of the loss comes from substations for conversion of voltage levels, which will probably only be needed at the ends. The energy potentially saved by reliable renewable energy sources greatly outweigh any loss in efficiency across the tunnel.

  43. Michael Conner August 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    How would climate change affect this project (warming leading to rising sea level, northward population migration, etc.)?

  44. sadpanda00 August 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    @klktrk Not true – the whole of eastern Russia, including the Bering strait, lies on the North American plate, which actually extends into Russia as far as the Lena River (near Yakustk). The Bering Strait is geologically stable.

  45. eletruk August 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Has anybody watched Ice Road Truckers? I’m sure a lot of people have. But these are the kind of roads that “goods” will be traveling when coming down from the Bering Straight. Not at all conducive to travel or transport. Is Russia going to build anything on the US side? Otherwise this will just be a tunnel to nowhere.

  46. phil allen August 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Being a Russian project, an understanding of the effects of very cold, and often wet and cold, weather prob’ly informs this project. Tourists (not the ones stowed away in containers) should nonetheless be prepared. Please review relevant movies before embarking.

  47. johnwerneken August 25, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Social consequences be damned, hardly anyone lives there, if necessary they can be bribed, relocated, or given the treatment the American railroad builders gave the Indians. On these kinds of projects, I’d like design and investment return to be dealt with; those who care about other issues could put up so money or STFU.

  48. taxfree August 25, 2011 at 12:57 am

    This is a great proposal; and probably without any downside issues.

    Given ‘Peak Oil’ and the unavoidable ramifications thereof, the use of electric railway systems (Powered by hydro, wind and tidal projects.) just might allow us to survive our now unsustainable dependence / reliance on fossil fuels.

    It is most important that all such projects be conceived and achieved before the downside of the Hubbert curve denies us the energy, from fossil fuels, that shall be so necessary to the building of such projects.

    There is little time to waste.

    All should support this and do so by contacting their government representatives and urging them to do what they can to support all such ventures.

    Indeed, putting aside some concern regarding fault lines that could rupture and destroy such a tunnel, it should be supported by all.

    Daniel J. Lavigne, Founder

  49. TominFlorida August 25, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Hmm. That’d be a fun journey, but I too have some reservations about plate tectonics. Also, it’s all fine and good that Russia wants to do it, but will the US sign up? Finally, if Alaska says they’re in, will the federal gov’t foot the bill? Will the jobs be equal?…on both sides of the straight, I mean. Our governor here in Florida refused Federal funds for a rail line, which I think is idiotic as it creates jobs and adds an alternative to car traffic within the state.

  50. reality August 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    LOL well I give them praise for dreaming big, but this plan is seriously flawed. First, North America has no high speed rail lines anywhere near Alaska; Second, there are no rail lines connecting Alaska to Canada or the lower 48, not to mention the Bering Sea to Alaska’s railbelt; third, you can buy a hell of a lot of ships to transport cargo for 11 billion, so I don’t see the economics; fourth, there are serious social consequences to opening up Siberia and Western Alaska that way- these should be considered.

  51. caeman August 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Maybe it is $10B to $12B just to build the tunnel. The additional $50B is spend on the renewable energy producers, rail lines, electric train engines — cause you certainly don’t want a diesel motor filling up that tunnel with exhaust. Then there is the terminals at both ends.

  52. EJ Manvel August 24, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Um, is it a $10-$12 billion tunnel, and 65 miles long, as the article states, or is it $65 billion like the headline states?

  53. M Schaefer August 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Any sort of electricity transferred through the tunnel across continents would surely experience an extreme voltage drop, thus rendering this somewhat inefficient.

  54. chistletoe August 24, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I don’t know how many US citizens realize that the US imports more oil from Canada than from any other nation. Virtually all of Canada’s energy exports, oil, natural gas, and coal, go to the USA. Furthermore, environmental extremists have been blocking the development of new pipelines and rail lines to provide alternative transport from Alberta and Saskatchewan to alternative customers.
    Perhaps someone is getting fed up with the below-market prices of WTI oil at Cushing ….

  55. Nikolai August 24, 2011 at 7:36 am

    In theory you will be able to get on a train in London and get off again in New York. The long way round but still!

    As for a global electrical grid, I think there is a limit to how far electricity can travel due to resistance but I might be wrong. Perhaps it just works when you add the power stations together.

  56. Anumakonda August 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

    The high speed railway and tunnel will be a great feat.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  57. Rick Suddes August 24, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Would keep a lot of people busy

  58. caeman August 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    They could sell the excavated material to Hong Kong so they can build more land.

  59. Andrew Michler August 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    @vanzandtj, one of the most interesting aspect to me of this project is the transcontinental grid. You don’t need energy storage if you can link separate points of the globe. The wind will always be blowing somewhere, meaning reliable power is always available. This is proven out by many studies on wind energy (like the super grid along the eastern seaboard being developed now). To learn more hit the link in the post.

  60. Maxwell Smart August 23, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Err that’s right chief .. my shoe phone is working fine .. I said the Russians were coming .. yes by train.

  61. vanzandtj August 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    But there has been an enormous amount of traffic across the English Channel for centuries. I don’t think there is even scheduled ferry traffic across the Bering Strait. However, we would expect traffic to originate from further away on both sides. A tunnel might be very successful.

    I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the wind energy part, though. Unless someone develops cheap energy storage.

  62. klktrk August 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    people, you do realize the pacific floor is being subducted on both sides. The area is not geologically stable.

  63. mrmakpruzzi August 23, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Exelente pagina, los seguire a diario..

    En hora buena !!

    Mr. Mak Pruzzi

  64. seamusdubh August 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t really see why this couldn’t happen, technical speaking. The Channel Tunnel is about half this distance and twice the depth. And that took 6 years (88-94) to build two decades ago. We should be able to pull it off.

  65. caeman August 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I would like to see a project like this succeed. It would give all three countries (Russia, USA, Canada) an incredible trade route and be an economic boon.

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