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Another Multi-Billion $ Russian Bridge - This Time Near Japan (Sakhalin)

Putin wants to build a bridge all the way to Japan. The rubles, energy, steel and concrete invested today in these legacy infrastructure projects assure a strong economic foundation from which an integrated Russia will benefit for decades.

Meanwhile American infrastructure goes nowhere.

Russia is on an infrastructure roll, along with the rest of Asia and Eurasia. The final feasibility study for the land bridge between Russia’s mainland and the Island of Sakhalin is to be announced by the end of this month. The final study will include all updated data, including financials, as it will have to be supported in large part by the Russian federal budget.

Russian Railways already has set aside and deposited into its investment program one billion rubles for design and planning. In addition, talks have already been ongoing with the Japanese Government to participate and extend this route from the eastern tip of Sakhalin through to Japan via Hokkaido.

It might be worth reflecting back on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "new deal for the American people" as he described it, uniting the United States of America through infrastructure. In the post-great depression years, that massive effort transformed the United States. Roads, Ports, Railways, Bridges, Tunnels, Airports and Power lines were built networking the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This quite simply allowed for a competitive, productive America and the returns on this investment fed the country’s coffers through the postwar boom years and into the 1980’s.

However, eight decades later, America's arteries of transportation, the lifeblood of the US economy and way of life, are crumbling. Years of neglect, political infighting, shortsightedness, economic tightening, and budgetary indecision threaten the viability of the country from the smallest roads to the largest dams.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised to reinvest in America's infrastructure. Nevertheless, even the trillion dollars he has pledged would only partially make up the gap to get to $3.6 trillion, which is what in 2013 dollars the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated would be needed by 2020 to rebuild America. The figure would be appreciably higher now.

Meanwhile, across the pond in Russia, the business of developing and building up national and international infrastructure is proceeding quickly without braying fanfare. Learning from historic lessons gives us pragmatic common sense, and Russia may well have taken their cue from FDR.

President Putin in his June 2017 “direct line” session (his version of fireside chats) stated that extending either a bridge or tunnel or both onto Sakhalin and beyond is a key part of the Government’s strategy to further enhance and integrate the transport system and economy of Russia.

According to Putin, the cost of a Russia - Sakhalin Bridge will be lower than the bridge across the Kerch Strait to Crimea, but the decision is still out if it will be a bridge or a tunnel. Putin also noted that, according to preliminary calculations, the cost of a bridge is estimated at 286 billion rubles, excluding the cost of constructing access roads on Sakhalin Island and the Khabarovsk Territory on the mainland. The total investment needed to make this territorial transportation transition is generally estimated to be 500 billion rubles.

This project is also seen as a part of a larger long-term project that is a land link between the Russian Federation and Japan via Sakhalin. The two countries will then see significant benefits, for example, such a transport corridor should see a two-way freight flow of over 40 million tons per year.

During the Far Eastern Economic Forum held in September of last year President Putin noted that the idea of connecting Sakhalin to the mainland has been talked about since the beginning of the 20th century, and the time for talking is past. The prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was present when Putin said, "We are planning to build a bridge to Sakhalin. Connecting Sakhalin and Hokkaido are things of an absolutely global nature”.

This project will allow businesses to cost effectively deliver goods from the APR countries to Europe and back. New transport corridors are being laid throughout the Far East and port capacities are being built up. These projects, along with the development of the Northern Sea Route, the modernization of the Baikal-Amur Mainline, enhancing the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the implementation of other projects such as “one belt one road”, will make the Russian Far East one of the most important and dynamic logistics centers in the world.

The rubles, energy, steel and concrete invested today in these legacy infrastructure projects assure a strong economic foundation from which an integrated Russia will benefit for decades.