Paving the airport runway in Dawson City would have positive economic impacts on the community, according to a new report.
The Dawson City Chamber of Commerce released a business case evaluation of the project last week. It found that the project would have a net benefit of about $4.7 million over the next 12 years, and would create about 76 jobs during construction.
“It’s a very positive outcome,” said Dick Van Nostrand, president of the chamber of commerce. “I want to get a phone call from the premier or the minister to say, ‘We’ve looked at the report and it makes sense… and we’re putting this into gear.’”
The report estimates it would cost $11 million to pave the runway and that operations and maintenance would cost about $800,000 each year after that. But it also calculates that operations and maintenance of the existing gravel runway cost about $560,000 each year, so the increase would only be about $240,000 per year.
The study also finds that reduced costs for aircraft operators and growing tourism revenue, particularly from the Holland America cruise line, would more than make up the difference, leading to that $4.7 million net benefit.
It also found that increased Holland America traffic would help create nearly 40 new jobs a year, starting a few years after the runway paving is finished.
Van Nostrand said jets flying into Dawson will be able to hold more passengers if they can land on a paved runway.
He also said the situation will soon come to a head, because Air North’s single Boeing 737-200, equipped to land on gravel, is coming to the end of its lifespan.
“Maybe at the max a year and a half to two years,” he said. If the runway isn’t paved by then, he worries, the Holland America traffic may dry up.
Van Nostrand said the Yukon government needs to make a decision about the runway soon, because it will likely take about two years for the project to be complete.
“We need to get our asses in gear and get it done,” he said.
He said he was “blind-sided” when the Yukon government announced last month that it will fund a functional plan to look at the costs of the airport project this year.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s not an announcement. That’s just what governments do every day. Everybody’s dreaming and planning.”
The Yukon government has also said it will look at other possible upgrades, including rebuilding or relocating the Dawson airport terminal building.
But Van Nostrand said those upgrades aren’t needed right now. His report doesn’t address those other projects.
He also explained that the $11-million price tag would include cement apron panels at either end of the runway, to help aircraft maneuver. Without those aprons, the project would likely cost about $8 million.
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