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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Work Set to Start on Rail to Sakhalin

The Railways Ministry is slated next month to start building a $3.4 billion bridge connecting the mainland with Sakhalin Island in the Far East, Deputy Railways Minister Alexander Misharin said Thursday.

"In two weeks, the government will hopefully sign the resolution," Misharin said at a news conference. The project was agreed to by all ministries involved and is now awaiting approval from the Justice Ministry.

"This project is of extraordinary significance," Misharin said. "We have the support of the president -- this is the most important."

The Railways Ministry approved a proposal by scientist Alexander Granberg for the project, Misharin said.

The 100 billion-ruble ($34 million) bridge is a revival of a grandiose Stalin-era project to build an 8-kilometer tunnel under the Pacific Ocean to connect the mainland to Sakhalin.

The project includes a 450-kilometer railroad link from the town of Komsomolsk to Cape Lazarev, which will be connected with Cape Pogibi on Sakhalin Island by the 8-kilometer bridge. There are also plans to build a 130-kilometer railroad on Sakhalin. After the bridge is built, Misharin said, a 40-kilometer tunnel or bridge may be added across the Pacific to connect Sakhalin with the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Misharin said the massive investment in infrastructure would pay for itself in 17 years. The link is being built to increase cargo transit between Europe and East Asia, which could net the federal budget $43 billion over 35 years, he said. The project is expected to earn $140 billion over that period.

Viktor Ishayev, the governor of the Khabarovsk region in the Far East, said the investment will not pay for itself. He said the project could be profitable only if it transports no less than 10 million tons of cargo a year.

The Baikalo-Amurskaya Magistral rail link, which connects the Trans-Siberian Railroad with Komsomolsk, currently transports just 2.5 million tons of cargo a year, Ishayev told Prime-Tass.

Misharin said 10 million tons to 35 million tons would pass over the bridge every year.