Industry in Fort Nelson is getting a boost with the announcement of a capital improvement project on the Alaska Highway in 2012-13.
The work that will be completed includes paving and intersection improvements on an eight-kilometer stretch of the Alaska Highway in the Fort Nelson area between kilometers 443 and 451.
This stretch of highway runs right through the industrial section of Fort Nelson.
“I just drove through it yesterday and it needs to be fixed. There will be some upgrades on bridges, and there will be some upgrades in terms of intersections and that as well. We just think it’s supporting our industry and it’s a good place to put our money,” said Bob Zimmer, MP for Prince George-Peace River.
Zimmer said that this is not just an investment in the Alaska Highway itself but something that will benefit the local economy for years to come through the creation of local jobs and the stimulation of the natural resource industry.
“[The Alaska Highway] basically opened the whole northern corridor for natural resource development. Without the Alaska Highway, I don’t know where we would have been in our resource development. It’s absolutely a necessity for us and a key route for industry, so we need to make sure it’s maintained and taken care of.”
“Any investment in the Alaska Highway is of paramount importance in our region, being the portal to both all points north and south,” said Fort Nelson Action Mayor Kim Eglinski. “The Alaska Highway is also representative of our past, present and future.”
Zimmer agreed and pointed out that the history of the highway is impressive and longstanding.
“The whole Alaska Highway and the story of it, how they built in nine months during World War II, is still amazing to me. I mean, try doing that now. We see issues with a lot smaller projects trying to get done in 10 years.”
“The Alaska Highway is an integral part of our northern history, and today [it] provides the most important transportation corridor in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality,” said Eglinski. “Residents, visitors and those who travel the highway for their livelihood will undoubtedly appreciate the significance that this announcement has for our region.”
This federal investment is part of the ongoing capital repair and maintenance programs to ensure that the highway continues to provide safe service to Canadians.
Zimmer said that the upgrades to the highway are unlikely to stop at Fort Nelson and that twinning the highway from the border to Dawson Creek and beyond is another project on his radar.
“There has been a lot of discussion about it and it’s definitely something I’ll be pushing for. We see the need; the Alaska Highway is still a great highway but it’s in need of some expansion to address the expansion of our industry and population.”
Zimmer pointed out that people of this region have expressed their satisfaction that tax dollars are coming back in to the region in a meaningful way.
“It is very encouraging to see Federal monies being invested in to the very regions that are experiencing fast-paced economic and community development,” said Eglinski. “Federal investment in to the world-renowned Alaska Highway is tremendously important to our economy.”
“We have to keep this industrial engine chugging along, and if we don’t maintain it and upgrade it now it’s not going to be a great route,” said Zimmer. “For us, it’s supporting natural-resource based communities with the infrastructure that they need.”
Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) is responsible for maintaining an 835-kilometer section of the 2,450 kilometer Alaska Highway, from kilometer 133 north of Fort St. John to kilometer 968 at the British Columbia/Yukon border. British Columbia is responsible for the first section, up to kilometer 133.