Yukon government on its own to maintain north Alaska highway

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The Alaska Highway between Burwash Landing and Beaver Creek, Yukon. An agreement with the U.S. government to help maintain the stretch of highway between Haines, Alaska, and Beaver Creek has expired. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
The Yukon government is desperately looking for money from the United States to help maintain the north Alaska Highway.

Since 1977, the U.S. has helped pay for maintaining the stretch of highway between Haines, southeast Alaska, and Beaver Creek, Yukon, contributing over $400 million over those decades.

But that agreement has since expired, leaving the territory to pay for the road on its own.

Yukon Minister of Highways and Public Works Richard Mostyn says the Alaska Highway is vitally important for all the goods being trucked into Alaska.

The territory simply does not have hundreds of millions of dollars.

Minister Richard Mostyn

“There’s no two ways about it, it is a very important conduit for the continent,” he said. “It is the sole highway access to Alaska, to Anchorage, to Fairbanks.”

Mostyn says without the pot of American money to repair and maintain the section of highway, Yukon is in a tight spot.

Richard Mostyn is the minister responsible for Yukon highways. He says the territory can’t afford to maintain the highway on its own. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

“We are a territory that is half the size of B.C. [the province of British Columbia], with the tax base of Campbell River [a B.C. community with a population of about 35,000],” he said.

“It is a very small territory, population-wise, we simply do not have the resources to keep that highway in the north to the industrial grade that’s demanded by the United States.”

Highway needs work

Mostyn says the north highway needs hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work.

“The climate is warming and the road is degrading on a regular basis,” Mostyn said. “I doubt the Yukon is going to be able to maintain it to a standard to which Alaskans have come to depend.

“The territory simply does not have hundreds of millions of dollars.”

‘The climate is warming and the road is degrading on a regular basis,’ Mostyn said. (Sue Thomas)

Mostyn said the government will “do what it can” to maintain the road.

But he adds that’s very challenging, especially after the United States rejected a funding proposal for $25 million.

“We have no support from Alaska or Washington, we have applied for money from Washington, unfortunately, that bid didn’t get chosen.”

Mostyn says he’ll meet with his counterparts in Alaska to try and find money from Washington.

With files from Nancy Thomson and Dave White

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Northern Canada: Construction of all-season road to isolated Indigenous community to begin this fall, CBC News

Faroes: Underwater tunnels revolutionize transport in the Faroe Islands, Cryopolitics Blog

Finland: Finland takes another step towards building Arctic rail link, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Railway linking Barents Sea coast to Arctic Finland not commercially viable, report says, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Smelters, huskies, and fish pies: the Arctic road from Norway to Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Growing number of Swedes choose train travel over flying to reduce pollution, Radio Sweden

United States: Trump claims Alaska wildlife refuge road ‘almost completed’… but is it?, Alaska Public Media

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