Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to media in Whitehorse on May 17, 2018. Mostyn told media on Nov. 14 that his department is in the early discussion stages with business owners along the Alaska Highway that may have to give up part of their land for infrastructure development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Alaska Highway work could mean expropriating some land

Minister Richard Mostyn said discussions with property owners are occurring

The Yukon government’s plan to widen sections of the Alaska Highway near Hillcrest could encroach on property owners’ lands.

The properties in question belong to the Airport Chalet and the government’s aviation maintenance building.

Plans to upgrade the highway are in the works in order to increase safety in the area.

Concerns have been raised for years, perhaps most recently from the Hillcrest Community Association, which tabled in the legislative assembly on Nov. 8, 2018 a petition that called for a traffic light to be installed at Hillcrest Drive and the Alaska Highway by 2020.

Installing two new traffic lights — one in this location, the next at Burns Road — are part of the project. So, too, are bike lanes.

“This piling up or ‘platooning’ of vehicles behind slower trucks can lead to bad driving decisions (drivers looking for the opportunity to pass) so the extra lanes allows for safe passage of through traffic,” said Doris Wurfbaum, a spokesperson with the Department of Highways and Public Works. “There are added acceleration and deceleration lanes so drivers, including truckers, can also safely merge on and off the highway, also.”

Richard Mostyn, minister of the Department of Highways and Public Works, told reporters on Nov. 13 that discussions have been occurring with those who could be impacted by future highway work. He would not comment on what happened during those meetings.

“The property is in the right-of-way, that’s the problem,” he said. “We have businesses that had been allowed to build in areas that should have been building free. Now we have to go back and make sure that we can actually reclaim the right-of-way from these businesses.”

The owner of the Airport Chalet didn’t immediately return requests for comment, nor did the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce.

Mostyn said that “nothing has been” resolved to date.

“No expressions of concern” have been raised, he said.

“We’ve started those discussions with them in a respectful fashion.”

Asked whether a buyout is on the table, Mostyn said, “We’re in negotiations to find a solution to this whole thing. I’m not going to conduct those negotiations in the media.”

Negotiations with business owners have occurred for “several months,” he said.

Mostyn said speeds will be reduced by virtue of there being new traffic lights.

Regardless, he said engineers will assess appropriate speeds for the stretch.

Stacey Hassard, interim leader of the Yukon Party, told reporters if there are plans to expropriate lands it should be carried out in the public eye.

“We know that there are issues in that area, we know that work needs to be done. We’re not surprised at that,” he said. “If the government is using public taxpayer money to purchase lands then I believe taxpayers have the right to know how much.”

Construction is slated to start next summer; completion is expected during the fall of 2022. The price tag is $12 million.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Yukon Department of Highways and Public Works

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