Darrell Pasloski says there should be news in the next few months surrounding the Shakwak highway project.
The premier was in Washington this week encouraging American lawmakers to reinstate cash for the project to improve Yukon highways that connect mainland Alaska to the panhandle.
The Shakwak Agreement was signed by the governments of Canada and United States in 1977.
It lays out responsibilities for 523 kilometres of road – the Canadian portion of the Haines Road from Haines, Alaska, to Haines Junction and the northern portion of the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction to the Alaska Border.
Funds to reconstruct and improve the highways come from the United States. The work has been done by local Yukon contractors, the premier said, and any ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of the Yukon government.
U.S. money came in annually until 2012, when the American government removed the project from the federal Highways Act funding.
“They signed an agreement. This is not between Alaska and Yukon this is an agreement between the two largest trading partners in the world, Canada and the United States, who agreed to the reconstruction of this highway to get it to a modern, all-weather, two lane highway,” Pasloski said.
“That work still is not completed.”
Historically the American transportation bill provided $20 to $30 million a year to the project, Pasloski said.
The first step to re-establish the money is to get the Shakwak project back into the American’s transportation bill, he said.
“I’m asking them to put the language back into the bill. If we can get the language back into the bill then it will be a part of whatever the appropriation is for transportation and there will be some money,” Pasloski said.
There is still a lot of work to be done.
“There’s a bit of asphalt paving to be done still on the Haines Road. But there is a considerable amount of roadwork to be done primarily between Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing and the border and then of course the paving of that. I think there might be a little bit of paving left between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay as well,” the premier said.
Highways and Public Works director of transportation engineering Paul Murchison said there is about $14 million worth of work left paving the Haines Road. The government also estimates $65 million in work paving from Haines Junction to Destruction Bay. On top of that there is between $60 and $120 million worth of work related to permafrost between Destruction Bay and the U.S. border, he said. That same section will cost $140 million to paved.
All the figures are in Canadian dollars.
According to Pasloski, the Canadian government and the governments of British Columbia and Yukon have invested about $1.5 billion on the entire Alaska Highway.
The Americans, through the length of the agreement have contributed about $460 million, he said.
Officials say the American contribution is expressed in U.S. dollars and the Canadian contribution is expressed in Canadian dollars.
“This has been a great deal for U.S. taxpayers. They have really invested about a quarter of the money being spent; our data says that 80 to 85 per cent of the traffic on the North Alaska Highway is U.S. traffic,” Pasloski said.
The premier said he has met with a number of high ranking U.S. officials from both American political parties and brought with him letters of support from American labour and business groups.
“What we’re seeing is good bipartisan support. While there is no guarantee, we’re feeling good that we will know in two to three months whether this work has been successful,” he said.
“Of course we’ll continue to have officials follow up with the staff of the senators and congressmen to make sure that this stays a priority.”
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