WASHINGTON, D.C. - Jurisdiction over the Canadian section of the Alaska highway is to be transferred to the Dominion government by the United States Army on April 1. The road will then become "in all respects an integral part of the Canadian highway system.
It is likely that tourists will be permitted to travel on the road this summer. However, Canadians who are closely in touch with the situation consider it improbable that the highway can be used to any great extent by general traffic before 1947 - or, possibly, 1948. This is because of limited facilities for obtaining gasoline, food and overnight accommodation.
The Alaska highway, a gravel road 26 feet wide, extends from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Fairbanks, Alaska - a distance of approximately 1,600 miles. It was constructed by the United States Army engineers.
The road has been maintained by the Army, and an Army spokesman states that it is in excellent condition. Members of a recent inspection party reported that most of their driving was at a speed of 40 miles an hour.
The war spurred to completion the far northern part of an Inter-American highway advocated for years by tourist organizations.
Whether the Alaska highway is maintained for civilian traffic probably will depend upon whether the defense authorities of Canada and the United States believe that the strategic importance of the road justifies the expenditure in peace time.
Because the road was built chiefly with the labor of soldiers there have been varying estimates of its cost to the taxpayers of the United States. These estimates range from $25,000,000 to $75,000,000, exclusive of maintenance. The cost of maintenance for the fiscal year 1944-1945, it is understood, was $10,564,554.
Officially the Canadian-Alaskan Military highway, the great north road is popularly known by its soldier-engineered nickname - Alcan. Speedy tourists could drive from Glacier National park in Montana (on the Canadian border) to Fairbanks in five days; from New York to Fairbanks in nine days.
From the United States-Canada border to Edmonton, Alberta by a hard-surfaced road through Calgary, the distance is 370 miles. From Edmonton to the southern end of the Alaska highway (495 miles) there is a dirt and gravel road which the Army reports closed to traffic at certain times of year.
If You're Interested--
For the latest information concerning this road, anyone desiring to travel over the Alaska highway should communicate with the Edmonton Automobile club. (The Army shipped heavy freight by rail as far as Dawson Creek, the end of steel.)
On the military road the British Yukon Navigation company operates buses between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse, and the O'Hara Bus company operates buses between Whitehorse and Fairbanks.
These lines are under charter to the United States Army, however, civilians are carried if seats are available after all government passengers have been accommodated. An approved rate schedule governs the fares.
The facilities along the highway are utterly inadequate to accommodate a large number of tourists. Civilian motorists can buy fasoline at Fort St. John (Mile 49), Trutch (Mile 201), Fort Nelson (Mile 300), Muncho Lake (Mile 456) and Whitehorse (Mile 917).
At these points gasoline prices vary from 55 cents to 65 cents a gallon. Because the Alaska highway was constructed primarily as a military road there were provided along its length only those facilities required by the Army.
It is reported that the Imperial Oil company may establish service stations at intervals as required by civilian travelers, along the Canadian section of the highway.
There are hotels at the small city of Whitehorse (half-way point on the highway). Overnight accommodation can be obtained at only two additional places - Fort Nelson and Watson Lake (Mile 635) - on the Canadian section. Civilians, however, have very low priority for obtaining this accommodation. Present rates are 75 cents a night.
It appears almost certain that no restrictions as to civilian traffic will be imposed upon that part of the highway between the Canada-Alaska boarder and Fairbanks.
The agreement between the governments of the United States and Canada provides that there shall not be imposed at any time any discriminating conditions to the use of the highway between United States and Canadian civilian traffic. The war department does not have any knowledge, a spokesman states, of ny intention to charge toll on any part of the highway.
In Alaska the highway follows the Tanana river and makes a junction with the Richardson highway at Big Delta, 90 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The Richardson highway runs from a point north of Fairbanks to Valdez, on the southern coast of Alaska.
In both Canada and Alaska the highway cuts through big game country. If the road is kept open sportsmen will be able to drive to hunting and fishing grounds that few white people have seen. War department necessity and the desirability of linking a chain of airfields determined the route of the Alaska highway.