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Dawson City businesses make case for paved airport runway

Dawson City's chamber of commerce commissioned a report to determine whether a solid business case can be made for paving the local airport's runway. It can, the report says.

Study commissioned by chamber of commerce says new runway would be economic boon

A view of downtown Dawson City. The chamber of commerce-commissioned report says a paved runway would create local construction jobs, and boost tourism. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

A new report commissioned by Dawson City's chamber of commerce says there is a solid business case for paving the airport runway.

Last month, the territorial government said it would draw up plans to improve the Dawson airport, possibly with a paved runway. That announcement came two years after a government official said there was no business case for paving new runways in Yukon. 

Upgrading Dawson's runway is long overdue, says Dick Van Nostrand, president of the Dawson chamber. He's been advocating for a paved airstrip for more than a decade, and said the government should just get on with it, "instead of making more studies."

"Because if we said 'go' today, we're likely two years away from being here with a paved runway," Van Nostrand said.

The chamber's report analyzed the costs of constructing a new runway ($11 million), along with the annual operating costs to maintain it. It found those costs would likely be offset by gains in local construction jobs, cheaper plane tickets and a busier tourism industry.

"The project is expected to reduce airfares and this has the effect of inducing travel. This is an important project benefit with respect to scheduled flights attracting domestic travellers," the report reads. 

Van Nostrand said Holland America Line's charter flights to the Klondike are a big part of the business case. He said a paved runway would accommodate larger aircraft than the ones currently used between Dawson and Fairbanks, Alaska.

"That age of aircraft, those old 737-200s, are starting to be phased out of being allowed in U.S. airspace," he said.

The Yukon government has said it will also look at other options for the Dawson airport, including relocating or rebuilding the terminal. 

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