The full text on this page is automatically extracted from the file linked above and may contain errors and inconsistencies.
APPENDIX I IMPRESSIONS OF THE AIASKA HG W Y 1/ IH A Previous speakers have made frequent reference to the "Alaska Highway11 and i t s possible influence on future development of the area i t t r a v e r s e s . I t has not y e t been c l e a r l y brought out that the Alaska Highway in i t s present location was conceived and b u i l t as a m i l i t a r y highway to serve a chain of a i r p o r t s and as an a u x i l i a r y supply route to Alaska. A j o i n t Canadian and United States Commission, appointed about 1935 for the special purpose* has studied the-question of constructing a highway to connect the United States with Alaska. The southern portion of the routes discussed and advocated by t h i s Commission l i e s to the west of the Itocky Mountains. ' This highway begins a t the railhead a t Dawson Creek and extends northward through Fort St # John, Fort Nelson and Watson Lake to Whitehorse from where i t continues in a northwesterly direction to a junction with the Richardson Highway in Alaska a t Big Delta. Except for some of the permanent bridges, construction of the highway i s completed and carrying t r a f f i c throughout i t s length. Transportation d i f f i c u l t i e s , which delayed the delivery of s t e e l fabricated in the United S t a t e s , prevented completion of some of the permanent bridges t h i s f a l l . Work w i l l proceed on these bridges throughout the winter however and i t i s anticipated that they w i l l be completed before the spring thaws'take out any of the temporary bridges which are now serving the t r a f f i c . The pioneer road which was b u i l t by the Army Engineers and c i v i l i a n contractors under the Public Itoads Administration during 1942 has been brought up to all-weather standard t h i s year with a 26«-foot roadbed and 20 to 22 feet of surfacing with l o c a l gravel or crushed stone. Grades in general were kept below ten per cent* Ihe building of the Alaska Highway was undoubtedly the greatest single highway construction project ever undertaken. The necessity for early completion gave a l l phases of the work an urgency such as i s seldom associated with construction p r o j e c t s . Contractors 1 employees a t one time exceeded 14,000, worked two s h i f t s of 10 or 11 hours a day, 7 days a week> in a l l kinds of weather including 40 to 50 degrees below zero* to drive the project through* The hospital service organized t>y the U. S. Public Health Service which provided prompt and e f f i c i e n t care of the side and injured workmen and inspection of water supplies and camp sanitation resulted in above average • health conditions on the job and contributed materially to the r e s u l t s . In August, t h i s year, I made a t r i p over the highway, flying from Ednonton to Fairbanks and then coming down over the highway by automobile. I covered the f u l l mileage, with the exception of t h a t section between Northway Airport in Alaska and Slims River Crossing a t Kluane Lake. The impressions gained on t h i s t r i p may be summed up a s follows: 1/ Gist of remarks of C. D, Curtiss, Deputy Commissioner, United States Public ftoads Adninistration # 1. I was most impressed by the tremendous magnitude of the job. Through contact with the project in Washington I was familiar with the various features of the project that could be measured by figures, such as the 1500 miles from Dawson Creek to Big Delta, the thousands of trucks, tractors, shovels and other major items of road building equipment, the 100 odd bridges of sufficient si^Q to constitute structural problems, the millions of dollars the project was costing, but i t required the combined trip by a i r and ground over the highway to give these > figures real meaning as to the unprecedented magnitude of the work. From the a i r I was impressed-by the wilderness traversed by the highway after leaving Fort St. Jofon. Outside of timber and gravel "there was no local source of supplies required for the construction work. Practically everything from food for woriqnen to spare parts for equipment had to be imported, much of i t more than 2,000 miles. 2. I was also very much impressed by the large'volume of traffic using the road while i t was s t i l l under construction This traffic consisted of heavy loads of bridge material and equipment for the road i t s e l f , materials and equipment for military projects along the route of the highway > food and other supplies, and busses carrying soldiers and workmen.. Before completion the Alaska Highway was already meeting the militaiy needs. 3. 'Another thing which impressed me was the general excellence of the location. Much of the sharp curvature and excessive grades that were necessarily a part of the hurried t r a i l construction has been eliminated through many minor and a few major relocations. Although the high-ray in general follows the t r a i l road, with the exception of a .very small percentage of the mileage, i t s location as b u i l t i s quite satisfactory and will be retained in any future development 4« The surfacing of the highway i s of crushed rock and gravel and dust i s a real nuisance. One cannot'make a trip over the highway in dry weather without remonbering the dust. 5. Tb insure uninterrupted service, constant, continuing maintenance will be necessary. Floods, frost, ice, snow and glides arc same of the major items that the maintenance crews will have to contend with. 6. A previous speaker has referred to the tourist value of the highway in the post-ro,r period. I was surprised and much impressed by the scenic beauty along the route of the highway which far exceeded my expectation* Throughout the area traversed by the highway there appeared to be excellent hunting and fishing opportunities. The scenic value alone* however, in my opinion would draw a great many. Tb be attractive to tourists, however, the highway would need to be made dustless and a suitable highway corjiection made with Edmonton*to the east and through Prince George to the West Coast of the United States. Tourist accommodations and motor vehicle service 7/ould also have to be available a t intervals along the highway. 7. Many features, some of y/hich have alreac^r been discussed, will influence post-war development along the highway. To adequately serve commercial post-war traffic, the highway would neqd as for tourist traffic suitable highway connections with Ednonton and to the Pacific Coast* Also a dustless surface would be desirable and some alignment changes to reduce grades and curvature f