Travellers on the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and the United States border may be in for a rough ride this summer.
Paul Murchison, director of transportation engineering with the Yukon government, said thawing permafrost is one of the culprits.
Murchison said this is a problem especially on the north part of the highway because “that road is underlain by permafrost that has a lot of ice in it.”
When that ice thaws, he said, volume under the road is lost as the ice turns into water and causes ups and downs in the road.
Murchison said maintenance crews are working hard to do patching and spot repairs to keep the road safe.
He also said a forest fire near Destruction Bay last summer may have made things even worse this year. Murchison said the fire would have put additional heat into the ground and might be “accelerating the permafrost thaw in that area.”
He said the highway maintenance program under the Shakwak Agreement hasn’t received additional funding and was “fully exhausted” after last year’s construction season.
The international agreement with the United States covers the long-term upkeep of the Alaska Highway.
“We do continue to work with our counterparts in Alaska in looking at the opportunities for Shakwak funding or for other funding opportunities.”
The Yukon government will spend around $2.5 million maintaining the northern stretch of the highway this year.
Related stories from around the North:
Norway: Norway to expand network of electric car chargers across Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Train traffic resumes in Russian Arctic as Murmansk reconnects with grid, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Extra billions to SAS – but with stricter climate requirements, Radio Sweden
United States: US Dept. of Transportation awards $25M for Port of Alaska upgrades, Alaska Public Media