One of Russia's most powerful tycoons and a close pal of President Vladimir Putin has proposed a long and winding road that theoretically could connect Great Britain to Alaska, via Mother Russia. And while a nearly 13,000-mile highway sounds like a stretch – a really long stretch – the major roadblock is likely money, not feasibility.
“This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project,” Russian Railways boss Vladimir Yakunin told the Russian Academy of Science, where he presented his plan for the Trans-Eurasian belt Development, which he acknowledged would cost “trillions” of dollars.
“This is an inter-state, inter-civilization, project.”
- Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways
The road would link thousands of miles of existing byways and bridges across Russia, a span of more than 6,000 miles. From the west, it could then connect to roads in Europe, including the Chunnel Tunnel, which connects Great Britain and France.
From it eastern terminus in Siberia’s Chukotka region, the road would be just 55 miles across the Bering Sea from the isolated Alaskan city of Nome, a major obstacle except in the context of Yakunin’s massive proposed undertaking. If a connection to Nome was followed by a U.S.-built road to Fairbanks, the global triptik would be possible.
Yakunin didn’t directly address the Bering Sea issue, but a ferry system might be the least expensive method.
The thoroughfare would share its easement with a high-speed rail and oil and gas pipelines that Yakunin said could help spur development in such remote zones as Siberia.
The Siberian Times reported March 23 that Yakunin has been working on the ambitious project with Viktor Sadovnichy, the president of Moscow State University.
The project would span the entire length of Russia, linking existing networks in Europe and Asia and creating the first-ever modern route from the Pacific Ocean in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. Yakunin said it could generate an immense number of jobs, sprout new cities and spur development of Siberia and the Far East.
Vladimir Fortov, head of the Russian Academy of Science, said the project is “very ambitious and expensive,” but added that it would “solve many problems in the development of the vast region.”
“The idea is that basing on the new technology of high-speed rail transport we can build a new railway near the Trans-Siberian Railway with the opportunity to go to Chukotka and Bering Strait and then to the American continent,” Fortov said.
If anyone has the juice to make the humongous highway happen, it could be the 66-year-old Yakunin. Not only is he a close friend of Putin, he has even been rumored to be Putin's handpicked successor.