The Yukon government will be spending up to $2 million to make improvements to resource-access roads over the next four years.
“In response to industry and looking at the conditions of the roads, we’ve put in place a program that has a list of approved projects for this fiscal year,” said Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers.
“And beginning April 1, projects will be selected based on application, similar to the Rural Road Upgrading Program.”
Each year, $500,000 will be available for the road improvements and repairs.
“The last time there was a program in place that was really, systematically looking at some of these roads that are used for placer mining was back in 1993,” said Cathers.
“That was cancelled by a previous government.”
Since that time, users of these roads have been making ad hoc repairs of their own when necessary.
This year, five projects have been approved for work, including the Freegold Road, the South McQueston Road, and roads used for placer mining in the Dawson area.
Projects over the next four years will be chosen to address the areas of greatest need and will be driven by applications from the public and industry.
Mining operations will also be able to chip in for work on the roads they use, said Highways spokesperson Jennifer Magnuson.
“We need to ensure that roads aren’t unsafe or in rough condition,” said Cathers.
“If the roads start to reach the impassible stage it could hurt economic activity in the area.”
While the access roads are being used primarily by industry, many, like those in the Dawson area, are frequently travelled by the general public, including tourists.
This makes the roads a public safety issue, said Cathers.
“There is an issue of responsibility and liability to the government as these are public roads.”
The resource-access road funding was announced while many truckers in the territory are complaining about the abysmal state of the Dempster Highway.
The Dempster has not been forgotten, said Cathers.
There has been increased investment in the route and attempts are being made to have it labeled a national highway, which would make the Dempster eligible for federal funding.
As much as 31 million dollars was also announced recently for a three-year project to repair the Robert Campbell Highway.
Critics have complained that the funding is a form of corporate welfare, as the road improvements will primarily serve nearby mining operations.