Alaska Highway Money Not an Easy Sell to Congress

The government of Canada’s Yukon Territory is asking Congress to pay for reconstruction of the Alaska Highway. Premier Darrell Pasloski  was in Washington last week to make the case. The United States and Canada agreed in 1977 to work together to improve the northern section of the Highway, as well as the spur from Haines Junction to the border near Haines. The U.S. agreed to pay for construction and Canada would pay maintenance and operation. Premier Pasloski says  the funding should continue.

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“This has been a great deal for the U.S. Taxpayers because the U.S. Congress has put up approx 25 percent of the money into this highway, however, about 85% of the traffic is U.S. traffic,” he said.

The U.S. paid more than $400 million before Congress stopped funding in 2012. Part of the Haines road still needs resurfacing, but the bigger challenge is a long section further north, where the road is on unstable permafrost.

Matt Shuckerow , a spokesman for Alaska Congressman Don Young, says the road is a vital link between Southeast and the Interior. But the U.S. Highway Trust Fund is stretched thin, so Shuckerow says  it’s not an easy sell in Washington.

“Members here in Congress have very little appetite to send money to places like Canada when in fact we lack funds to take care of our highway issues here in the United States,” he said.

Shuckerow says Young believes the U.S. should live up to its obligation to pay for the highway, but it will take sustained pressure from Canada, the state of Alaska and the Alaska congressional delegation.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz