Local business fears fallout from Alaska Highway work

Proposed road work and improvements to the Alaska Highway at the Carcross cutoff may cause grief for at least one local business owner.

Proposed road work and improvements to the Alaska Highway at the Carcross cutoff may cause grief for at least one local business owner.

A proposal by the Department of Highways and Public Works to upgrade the highway is open for public comment with the Yukon Environment Socio-Economic Assessment Board until May 25.

The proposed work would include eliminating the four existing highway access points at the intersection with the South Klondike Highway and replacing them with new ones at Duncan Drive and east of Anaconda Place. The department is also planning left-hand turning lanes and the extension of merging lanes.

“The work is primarily to improve safety at the Carcross cutoff and that whole vicinity,” said Alicia Debreceni, a spokesperson with the highways department.

Lee Willett, who owns the Cutoff Restaurant, agrees there are safety concerns with that stretch of road, but said the road work might potentially cost her business, because it removes direct highway access to the restaurant.

Willet said she also recently installed $10,000 worth of new signs for their restaurant before they found out about the work. She said the signs will give incorrect directions once the work is completed.

Willet said the department has promised to move the signs once work is finished.

“If you’re coming from Carcross, it kinds of screws us,” she said. “It could be a big part of our business, people coming from Skagway.”

Average daily traffic in 2015 at the Carcross cutoff was 2,782 vehicles per day heading south (towards Carcross) and 4,551 vehicles per day heading north (coming from Carcross) said Britanee Stewart, a spokesperson with the highways department.

While the exact number of collisions at the Carcross cutoff was not available, Stewart said the intersection has a “similar safety concern” as another high-collision area at the top of Robert Service Way.

“It’s kind of a crazy intersection, I agree with that,” Willett said. “I think a set of lights would have been sufficient.”

“There’s positives and negatives, but we know it’s inevitable.”

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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