WHITEHORSE – On July 30th the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) unanimously passed the most substantial highway legislation in United States history. This legislation contains a key provision that paves the way for renewed funding for the Shakwak portion of the Alaska Highway.
On July 31st, Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane – the region which contains the section of road – was briefed by staff members of the US Senate and the Alaskan government on the status of legislation (Bill S.2302) and what it means for the Alaska Highway and the riding of Kluane. If passed, this legislation brings the Shakwak portion of the highway one step closer to receiving renewed investment.
The Yukon Party Official Opposition has been leading the charge on advocating for renewed funding for the Shakwak portion of the highway.
- On March 14, 2017, MLA Istchenko wrote to the Canadian Ambassador as well as the Alaskan Governor and Senators to lobby for funding to reconstruct the highway.
- On March 28, 2017, MLA Istchenko wrote to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs to ask Canada to raise the issue of funding for the highway with the United States.
- On February 27, 2019, the Leader of the Yukon Party Official Opposition wrote to the Federal Finance Minister asking the Trudeau Government to commit funding in its 2019 Budget for reconstruction and maintenance on the Shakwak Corridor – a request they unfortunately denied.
- On March 7, 2019, the Yukon Liberal Government cut the territory’s highway maintenance budget by $2.5 million this fiscal year.
- On April 24, 2019, Yukon’s Minister of Highways and Public Works suggested that the Shakwak portion of the Alaska Highway does not benefit Yukoners.
Section 1117 of Bill S.2303 reads:
“(a) Recognizing the benefits that will accrue to the State of Alaska and to the United States from the reconstruction of the Alaska Highway from the Alaskan border at Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, to Haines Junction in Canada and the Haines Cutoff Highway from Haines Junction in Canada to Haines, Alaska, the Secretary may provide for the necessary reconstruction of the highway using funds awarded through an applicable competitive grant program, if the highway meets all applicable eligibility requirements for the program, except for the specific requirements established by the agreement for the Alaska Highway Project between the Government of the United States and the Government of Canada.
In addition to the funds described in the previous sentence, notwithstanding any other provision of law and on agreement with the State of Alaska, the Secretary is authorized to expend on such highway or the Alaska Marine Highway System any Federal-aid highway funds apportioned to the State of Alaska under this title at a Federal share of 100 per centum. No expenditures shall be made for the construction of the portion of such highways that are in Canada unless an agreement is in place between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States (including an agreement in existence on the date of enactment of the America's Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019) that provides, in part, that the Canadian Government—
“(1) will provide, without participation of funds authorized under this title, all necessary right-of-way for the reconstruction of such highways;
“(2) will not impose any highway toll, or permit any such toll to be charged for the use of such highways by vehicles or persons;
“(3) will not levy or assess, directly or indirectly, any fee, tax, or other charge for the use of such highways by vehicles or persons from the United States that does not apply equally to vehicles or persons of Canada;
“(4) will continue to grant reciprocal recognition of vehicle registration and driver's licenses in accordance with agreements between the United States and Canada; and
“(5) will maintain such highways after their completion in proper condition adequately to serve the needs of present and future traffic.
“(b) The survey and construction work undertaken in Canada pursuant to this section shall be under the general supervision of the Secretary.
“(c) For purposes of this section, the term ‘Alaska Marine Highway System’ includes all existing or planned transportation facilities and equipment in Alaska, including the lease, purchase, or construction of vessels, terminals, docks, floats, ramps, staging areas, parking lots, bridges and approaches thereto, and necessary roads.”.
- US Senate EPW Committee Press Release: EPW Committee Leaders Introduce Most Substantial Highway Legislation in History https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases-republican?ID=FE6C1B4F-9F6D-4A1F-A54E-F13DF5F01C83
- US Senate EPW Committee Press Release: EPW Committee Unanimously Advances Most Substantial Highway Legislation in History https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases-republican?ID=9E1B365A-25C6-45B4-9C67-466D14DB765D