North

Yukon's Campbell highway still in rough shape, after gov't promised to fix it up

Yukon's highways minister said a year ago that the government had committed $500,000 for design work to re-build the Campbell Highway between Ross River and Faro. But people in Ross River are now asking, 'where's the beef?'

'I think if these promises are being made, then they should really seek to see it happen'

'We've asked time and time again to get this road paved...to make it safe," says Ross River Dena chief Jack Caesar. (Nancy Thomson/CBC )

People in Ross River, Yukon, say they're still waiting for repairs to the Robert Campbell highway, a year after the Yukon government pledged to do major reconstruction on the section that connects Ross River to Faro.

Highways Minister Richard Mostyn promised to rebuild the road, even pave it. Mostyn told the Yukon Legislature in early 2018 that work was getting underway.

"The stretch of road from Faro to Ross River is of utmost importance, and I'm happy to announce to the House today that work on that stretch of road is proceeding in fine order," he said at the time.

Mostyn said then that the government had committed $500,000 for engineering design work to prepare for the reconstruction.

More than a year later, that reconstruction hasn't started yet — a fact that isn't unnoticed by people in Ross River.

The 67 kilometres of the Campbell between Ross River and Faro is heavily travelled and in bad shape, says Dylan Loblaw, a councillor with the Ross River Dena Council.

Loblaw and the rest of the Dena Council met with Mostyn recently, and asked about the road. According to Loblaw, they didn't get the answer they were looking for. 

"He said the Campbell highway from Ross River to Faro was on top of his list, but the main issue with paving this stretch of the Campbell highway is lack of resources — there's no money for it," Loblaw said. 

Dylan Loblaw is a councillor with the Ross River Dena Council. He says the Campbell highway should be upgraded for everyone who uses it: residents, mining companies, hunters and tourists. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

"It doesn't satisfy me at all. I think if these promises are being made, then they should really seek to see it happen ... not only for the First Nation, but for everybody else that uses this part of the highway — mining companies, hunters, tourists."

Loblaw says another concern is that the road is used by ambulances, taking people to be medevaced from Faro when planes can't land at Ross River. 

Ground heaves, potholes and ribbons

Franklin Charlie, director of capital and housing with the Ross River Dena Council, says the Campbell highway is also in bad shape on the other side of Ross River, toward Watson Lake. He says many people travel between those communities, and the road is made worse by climate change and melting permafrost.

"There's a lot of ground heaves, some places you can see the culverts pushing out through the top of the road. You know, so if you come around the corner, you get airborne for a few seconds, hitting those things," Charlie said.

Charlie says the highway is full of potholes, and lined with flagging, or ribbons, that mark problem areas. 

"There's enough ribbon there to stretch across the Yukon ... Instead of fixing up the roads, they put ribbons there."

The Campbell highway is in good shape up to the turnoff road to Faro, but deteriorates after that. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Charlie recalls Mostyn's promise in 2018 to fix the highway, at least between Ross River and Faro.

"All they're doing is just grading the road and putting calcium on it. And I guess chip-sealing will probably happen in another 100 years," he said.

Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard, who represents Ross River, is also asking what happened to the money budgeted last year. He says he hasn't seen any tenders for engineering design work on the highway.

"If they won't commit to their promises, it's pretty cold comfort for the community," Hassard said.

'They should be decisive'

Chief Jack Caesar is also exasperated with the chronic issue of the Campbell.

"You know the pavement stops at Faro. We've asked time and time and time again to get this road paved from the turnoff up here, to make it safe," he said. 

"I think they should give us some answers. They should be decisive." 

Caesar says Mostyn told the First Nation that he was "thinking about putting engineers on it."

"I don't know exactly what that means," Caesar said.

'I think they should give us some answers,' said Ross River Dena Council Chief Jack Caesar. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Mostyn declined an interview with CBC. Cabinet communications instead sent a short statement attributed to the minister.

"The government is doing preliminary work on the highway this summer to guide future upgrades to the section of the Robert Campbell from Faro to Ross River," the statement reads.

CBC asked the department specifically how much money was being spent this year on that work. No numbers were provided, and the statement said "future work will be done as budget is available."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now