Highway expansion won’t destroy Airport Chalet

The Airport Chalet will not be threatened by the proposed Alaska Highway expansion, a senior Highways and Public Works official has confirmed.

The Airport Chalet will not be threatened by the proposed Alaska Highway expansion, a senior Highways and Public Works official has confirmed.

“As we have currently proposed it in the draft plan, the building will not be required to be removed or moved,” said Allan Nixon, assistant deputy minister for transportation, in an interview last week.

Airport Chalet owner D’Arcy Olynyk has raised concerns about a $52 million plan to widen the highway to four lanes between Robert Service Way and Kopper King over the next five years, and the potential impacts on his business.

Olynyk said that at a meeting with project leaders about a month ago, he was told he could expect one year’s notice to move his building from the highway right of way as early as mid-May.

“If it goes though the way it’s proposed, it will instantly destroy our business,” he said last week.

The current designs show a paved multi-use trail going through the space where the Airport Chalet now stands.

That doesn’t mean there were ever any plans to have the building moved, said Nixon.

“We accommodate the multi-use trail as best we can,” he said. “It’s just a line on the map to show that we have to do some thinking around this spot, because there’s going to be some challenges.”

A Highways spokesperson confirmed that the possible outcome of moving the Airport Chalet was discussed in a hypothetical way at a meeting with Olynyk, and he was given the mid-May date after he pushed to know the earliest timeline that scenario might play out.

But no decisions on the project will be made until public consultations have been completed, and that feedback has been incorporated into the plans.

“We were asked to do the functional plan as a draft that took into account national standards and best practices that are now common across the country,” said Kirk Cameron, with CH2M HILL Canada Ltd., the engineering firm contracted by the government. Cameron was also present at the meeting with Olynyk.

“That’s what we did, which resulted in this draft functional plan. Emphasize, highlight and underline ‘draft.’”

The next phase is to “Yukonize” the plans, said Cameron. That means balancing what’s best from an engineering perspective with what is going to work for residents and businesses on the ground.

If having the Airport Chalet moved or taken down is not on the table, “that’s wonderful news,” said Olynyk.

But he’s still concerned about plans to reduce his highway access to just one point, which he worries will make it impossible for trucks to get in and out of his lot.

“We’re a truck stop. So if they don’t make it truck accessible, then they’ve killed the business anyway.”

That’s the sort of detail that might be worked out through the consultation, said Nixon.

“We’re not here to put anybody out of business, we’re not here to detract from their ability to make a living at all,” he said.

“What we’ve consistently said, since we started meeting with the businesses back in February, was ‘We’re going to work with you here to do the best possible job for everybody.’

“It’s not a final design, written in stone, and that’s why we’re doing the consultation.

“If you’ve got a better way, or a different way, let’s hear it, and let’s talk about it. We’re open to that.”

The government is consulting on the plans through May 15. Visit www.placespeak.com/whitehorsecorridor for more information.

Yukoners can also call 1-866-692-4484 or email whitehorsecorridorinfo@ch2m.com with questions or feedback.

Open houses have also been scheduled from April 22-25 for residents to learn about the plan and ask questions. They will take place from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Yukon Transportation Museum.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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