The Board considered the increasing gravity of the military situation in the Pacific and possible developments therein affecting Alaska. The Board was informed that the United States Government believes that the construction of a land route to Alaska as an alternative to the sea route is imperative for the defense of North America and that the United States Government, for military reasons, favors the route that follows the general line of the Canadian airports, Fort St. John-Fort Nelson-Watson Lake-WhitehorseBoundary-Big Delta, the respective termini connecting with existing roads in Canada and Alaska. The Board shares this belief for the following reasons:
Extract of Journal of Discussions and Decisions
for Meeting of Permanent Joint Board on Defense, Canada-United States,
on 26 February 19421
(1) That the effective defense of Alaska is of paramount importance to the defense of the continent against attack from the west, since Alaska is the area most exposed to an attempt by the enemy to establish a foothold in North America.
(2) That sea communications with Alaska in the future may be subject to serious interruption by enemy sea and air action.
(3) That construction of the highway will provide a secure inland route not exposed to attack from the sea, will alleviate the shipping situation, and will provide an alternate route for use in case sea communications are interrupted.
(4) That the air route to Alaska and the defense facilities in Alaska cannot be fully utilized without adequate means of supply for the air route. This can best be provided by a highway along this route.
(5) That the additional line of communications via the inland route will be of great value in the event of an offensive against Japan projected from Alaska.
(6) That there is already on this continent a sufficient supply of land transport vehicles to enable the road to be used to its full capacity for the rapid reinforcement and supply of the forces in Alaska, without adding to the burden of industry, and that the machinery for the construction of the road is already in existence.
(7) Air Transport Service does not offer a practicable substitute for the proposed road because of the shortage of aircraft and of aircraft constructional facilities.
(8) That the use of Skagway as a sea terminal with a road only from Whitehorse to Fairbanks would not be a satisfactory solution of the problem. (It is understood that the Whitehorse-Fairbanks section of the highway would probably be given first construction priority.)
The proposed highway would have its southern terminus on the Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbian Railway, which has available carrying capacity
substantially in excess of the possible carrying capacity of the road. Its northern terminus would be at a point about 60 miles south of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway, which connects Fairbanks with Valdez. From Fairbanks there is also a railway connection with Seward. According to information furnished by General Sturdevant of the United States Army Engineers, the estimated approximated length of the road is 1,600 miles of which about 1,200 miles would be in Canada and 400 miles in Alaska; that the cost of a 24-foot gravel road capable of carrying heavy traffic during both summer and winter is likely to average in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $60,000 a mile; and that the total cost might conceivably exceed $100,000,000 and probably would not be less than $75,000,000. The information of the Canadian members in respect to costs was to the same effect.
As its twenty-fourth recommendation, the Board accordingly as a matter pertaining to the joint defense of Canada and the United States, recommends the construction of a highway along the route that follows the general line of airports, Fort St. John-Fort Nelson-Watson Lake-Whitehorse-Boundary-Big Delta, the respective termini connecting with existing roads in Canada and Alaska.
The Board was informed by the United States members that the United States Government, appreciating the burden of the war expenditure already incurred by Canada since her entry into the war in September 1939, and in particular on the construction of the air route to Alaska, and being convinced of the necessity of the road and the urgency of its construction, would be prepared to meet the whole of the cost of its construction, and of its maintenance during the war, without asking Canada to do more than provide certain facilities as indicated below. If this offer on the part of the United States Government were accepted, that Government would--
(A) Carry out the necessary surveys for which preliminary arrangements have already been made and construct a pioneer road by the use of United States engineer troops for surveys and initial construction. (It would expect to complete this work during the current year and is advised that the pioneer road should be sufficiently advanced to be capable next winter of carrying a small amount of emergency traffic.)
(B) Arrange for the highway's completion under contracts made by the United States Public Roads Administration and awarded with a view to insuring the execution of all contracts in the shortest possible time without regard to whether the contractors were Canadian or American. (It expects that the road should be able to carry traffic to its full capacity not later than the end of 1943.)
(C) Maintain the highway until the termination of the present war unless the Government of Canada prefers to assume responsibility at an earlier date for the maintenance of so much of it as lies in Canada.
(D) Agrees that at the conclusion of the war that that part of the highway in Canada shall become in all respects an integral part of the Canadian highway system subject to the understanding that there shall at no time be imposed any discriminatory conditions in relation to the use of the road by Canadian or United States civilian traffic.
In the event of this proposal being accepted, the United States Government would ask the Canadian Government to agree--
(A) To acquire rights-of-way for the road in Canada, the title to remain in the Crown, in the right of Canada or of the province of British Columbia as appears most convenient.
(B) To waive import duties, transit, or similar charges on shipments originating in the United States and transported over the highway to Alaska, or originating in Alaska and transported over the highway to the United States.
(C) To waive import duties, sales taxes, license fees, or other similar charges on all equipment and supplies to be used in the construction or maintenance of the road and on personal effects of the constructural personnel.
(D) To take the necessary steps to facilitate the admission into Canada of such United States citizens as may be employed in the construction or maintenance of the highway, it being understood that the United States will assume the expense of repatriating any such persons if the contractors fail to do so.
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1. This extract was published as Exhibit 16, Appendix C, of House Report 1705, 79th Congress, 2d Session, pp. 89-91.