North Klondike Highway reconstruction project off to a bumpy start
'We're not intentionally trying to piss people off,' says Cobalt Construction president Shaun Rudolph
Motorists travelling along Yukon's North Klondike Highway between Dawson City and Gravel Lake last summer say it was a nightmare to navigate through the work zones — and they are not looking forward to spring, when work resumes.
But the company doing the work says last year was unusual, with lots of rain and poor-quality material to work with.
"There were a few times where I almost got stuck and I'm in a four-by-four F-250," said Shane Edwards. He lives in Dawson City and often drives that stretch of road.
"The people in the cars, of course they were getting stuck. There [were] people with trailers getting stuck.
"You also have heavy equipment that's working on the road, taking three-quarters of the road and there's no actual barricades."
Troy Fraser of Dawson City also said the road conditions were poor.
"The way the road was left, both the condition of the road and the signage, made for a real challenging time and a real nervous time," Fraser said.
It's not uncommon to see road work being done along the North Klondike Highway, which connects Whitehorse and Dawson City.
The Yukon government has committed to reconstructing the highway over the next 25 years.
The first two sections of the reconstruction project started last spring, between Dawson City and Gravel Lake at kilometre 624 to 632, and kilometre 636.4 to 641.8.
The work contracts were given to Whitehorse-based company Cobalt Construction.
The Yukon government awarded $3.9 million in funding for the section beginning at kilometre 636.4. Another $4.2 million was awarded for the section beginning at kilometre 624.
The goal of the upgrade work is to allow the road to accommodate heavier vehicles and meet current Transportation Association of Canada standards. Work includes ripping, widening and resurfacing of the road, culvert replacement, and drainage in some areas.
Cobalt Construction president Shaun Rudolph says the work is almost done.
"In the spring, we have to go back and do some clean up and just some touch up work and then it will be chip-sealed in July or August by the Yukon Highways Department," he said.
Extreme rainfall was 'a challenge'
Rudolph said he heard the public's concerns last summer.
He said record-breaking rainfall in the Dawson area and poor construction material at hand made for the terrible road conditions.
"Anytime it got moisture on it, it became very muddy and slick," Rudolph said.
Rudolph said there weren't many drying days in between the rainy ones, so further steps were taken to keep traffic flowing.
"To accommodate that, we increased our pilot-car hours. We kept graders out there to try and ease some of the traffic in the area," he said.
The work will be fully completed this spring once conditions thaw, according to Rudolph.
Rudolph said the uncontrollable circumstances of last year will not stop him from going for future reconstruction projects along the North Klondike Highway.
"Trying to do a major reconstruction project while trying to keep traffic flowing through the same road is always a challenge. Last summer was even more so a challenge with the record rainfalls and working with the marginal material," he said.
"We're understanding of the public's frustrations, and trying to deal with the road in the best way we can. We're not intentionally trying to piss people off."