The Yukon government is laying the groundwork for upgrades to the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse, by soliciting design work for a section near Mount Sima.

It's the first step in what could be a major highway reconstruction project, widening or twinning parts of the Whitehorse corridor. The government has proposed a $200 million project to upgrade a 40 kilometre stretch of road through the city.

Paul Murchison, Yukon's director of transportation and engineering, says the government is now looking for a company to design a passing lane and turning lane for a 1.4 kilometre stretch of highway at the Mount Sima turn-off.

"We're essentially getting this designed, and it will be on a shelf ready to go when and if we have funding in the future to proceed with construction," he said.

Murchison said that segment of highway is one of the least-contentious parts of the proposed upgrade project. 

"It has safety benefits, minimal impacts with utilities, minimal environmental impacts," he said.  

Other parts of the highway project have met with opposition from people who fear a wider highway will encroach upon their roadside businesses.  

The Yukon government has presented the upgrades as a way to improve safety and alleviate congestion as the city grows. Highways minister Scott Kent has also said that no work would begin without further consultation, unless needed to address safety.

A consultant's recent survey found Whitehorse residents almost evenly divided in their support for the proposed $200 million plan.