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* Pipeline construction on schedule
* Decision on northern Keystone XL leg still awaited
CALGARY, Alberta, Jan 16 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp said on Wednesday that construction of its $2.3 billion Gulf Coast Project, which will carry 700,000 barrels per day from the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub to Texas refineries is going smoothly and the pipeline is expected to open on schedule by year end.
Sporadic protests and legal challenges to construction on the line's 485-mile (780-kilometer) route have not altered the company's plans to have the pipeline in service in the fourth-quarter of this year.
""We factor things like that into our planning," said Shawn Howard, a spokesman for the company. "We've got a pipeline route that's hundreds of miles long so if there are activities that take place on one property, our crews still have plenty of work to do."
The Gulf Coast Project is the southern leg of the Alberta-to-Houston Keystone XL project, which TransCanada split in two after U.S. President Barack Obama refused to approve the project last year because of environmental concerns.
The company has re-applied for U.S. approval of the line's northern leg, which will run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Cushing. A presidential decision on the new application is expected in the coming months.