Northwestern Canada: Yukon gov pressed for details on expropriations for highway upgrades

‘There’s been a lot of encroachment into the right-of-way. So we have to take care of that,’ said Highways Minister Richard Mostyn. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)
The Yukon Party is pressing the government for details on any planned expropriation of property to make way for Alaska Highway upgrades.

Whitehorse residents saw this week the nearly finished design of upgrades to a section of the highway near the airport and the Hillcrest neighbourhood.

On Wednesday, Highways Minister Richard Mostyn confirmed that the government was negotiating with some property owners in the area.

“There’s been a lot of encroachment into the right-of-way. So we have to take care of that,” Mostyn said.

“We are talking to business owners, and we will reach an accommodation at some point and it will cost something.”

Opposition Leader Stacey Hassard said the minister was too vague.

“When the government’s expropriating lands with taxpayers dollars, taxpayers deserve to know how much money is being spent. And I think that the minister was very dismissive, and I think that’s really unfortunate,” Hassard said.

The owner of the roadside Airport Chalet has complained in the past that he’d have to ‘knock down the building’ to make way for highway upgrades. (CBC)

The $12 million upgrade project has been in the works for several years. In 2015, the owner of the roadside Airport Chalet complained that he’d have to “knock down the building” to make way for the wider highway.

‘It’s not safe now’

NDP MLA Liz Hanson also took aim at the highway upgrades on Wednesday. She questioned why the design didn’t better address the concerns of cyclists and pedestrians from Hillcrest, who want a safe crossing of the busy highway.

“The minister just said it’s not safe now, and it’s going to be two years before it may be partially safe,” she said in the legislature.

A conceptual image of the upgrades that will be made to the Alaska Highway in the coming years. (Government of Yukon)

“The premier has said that the Yukon government is applying a climate lens to all of its projects. This government has also stated that its strategy for climate change energy and a green economy will be released shortly. Yet, here we have a significant infrastructure project that will do little to encourage active transportation options.”

The government’s draft climate change strategy will be released Thursday morning.

Mostyn responded to Hanson by saying the government was still working on plans for improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

And he said highway improvements are a good way to address climate change.

“Keeping road pavement in good condition and increasing the efficiency of traffic flow reduces greenhouse gas emissions … that is one concrete method we are using to make sure that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Chris Windeyer

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Northern Canada Highway to get facelift, CBC News

Norway: LNG-reloading operations end in Norway’s Arctic waters, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Putin wants new rail link between Arctic coast and Indian Ocean, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: US Dept. of Transportation awards $25M for Port of Alaska upgrades, Alaska Public Media

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