Richard Mostyn, minister of highways and public works, along with Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, not pictured, announces funding to fix some of the worst parts of the North Klondike Highway while at a press conference in Whitehorse on July 24. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

North Klondike Highway to get $157M poured into it

Minister Richard Mostyn touted the investment as being ‘historic’

The Yukon and federal governments are providing $157 million to revamp the North Klondike Highway, fixing “some of the worst chunks” along it.

“Today,” said Richard Mostyn, Yukon’s minister of highways and public works, “we launch one of the largest transportation infrastructure jobs in the North and one of the largest single capital project spends in the Yukon’s history.”

The announcement, which came on July 24, is to improve safety and reliability of the highway connecting Whitehorse to Dawson City, MP Larry Bagnell said.

Teased apart, the Yukon government is contributing $39 million and Ottawa is covering the rest over nine years.

Work will begin next year and be divided into seven sections, with a completion date of 2027. It’s unclear which part crews will start on first.

Roughly 100 kilometres between Carmacks and the Dempster Highway cutoff will be rebuilt; three bridges are slated to be fixed or replaced. Roads will be widened, where possible, and filler, like gravel, will be used to raise the roadbed, Mostyn said.

Scott Kent, Yukon Party MLA, said he’s concerned the Liberal governments are paying lip service, that, like the Yukon Resource Gateway project announced almost two years ago, it will be slow to get off the ground or do so at all.

“We’ll be holding the government to account to ensure that with this latest announcement that they actually get the dollars out the door and are able to get Yukoners’ boots on the ground out there improving this road,” he said. “Of course we’re supportive of infrastructure investments and putting Yukoners to work through road building projects, but there’s still quite a few questions.”

Bagnell said improvements to the highway will be a boon for tourism and international trade.

It will be better equipped to withstand the effects of climate change and support more industrial traffic, he said.

Mostyn and Bagnell said maintenance costs will be lowered going forward. According to a news release, the territory will save roughly $820,000 per year.

The pot of money allotted for the project makes up almost one-tenth of the Yukon government’s annual budget, Bagnell said.

“You could build two high school with this amount of money, so this is a very substantial contribution,” he said.

“This investment will ensure this region remains a key driver of economic activity in the territory and is expected to support, in some way, over the 10 years of construction 800 different jobs.”

Mostyn said the Yukon governments spent about $1.5 million for improvements along the highway last year.

“A million and a half doesn’t buy an awful lot of road improvements,” he said.

With this new money, up to $20 million could be poured into improvements every year, Mostyn added.

“On the North Klondike Highway more rain, runoff and permafrost thaw is forcing us to change the way we maintain the road and change the way it is built. These upgrades are expensive. They are part of the necessary adaptation we must make and should reduce future maintenance costs.”

Mostyn said the highway is mostly original roadbed.

“It has not been built to an industrial standard. The standards it was built to are probably decades and decades old.

“The highway’s in really great shape right now,” he continued. “People have said they’ve never seen it better.”

Asked why work is being done then, Mostyn said its foundation is shot.

In areas around Pelly Crossing there are wicked frost heaves and potholes, he said.

“We keep repeatedly fixing these potholes. They keep popping up every season and creating problems.”

Funding from Ottawa comes from the National Trade Corridors Fund, banked money that seeks to make infrastructure more solid and efficient.

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

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