In light of the new U.S. $1-trillion infrastructure deal, the Yukon government hopes some of that money will be allocated to the Shakwak Project — a mutual agreement between Canada and the U.S. signed in 1976 to maintain and upgrade a stretch of highway that runs through Yukon.
The Shakwak Highway runs between Haines, Alaska, and the border north of Beaver Creek, Yukon.
Based on formula funding, Alaska is expected to receive $3.4 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs over five years thanks to the new infrastructure deal signed on Monday.
Money for Shakwak is not guaranteed, but Yukon's Highways and Public Works Minister, Nils Clarke, is hopeful. He says any money for the project will help reduce highway upgrade costs for the territory.
"Well, it's fantastic news, because estimates to complete the Shakwak construction ... cost approximately $500 million Canadian," said Clarke.
The Yukon government has been advocating for Shakwak funding in U.S. highway legislation for years, so the new infrastructure deal is a big relief, according to Clarke.
"We are in a much better position now than we would have been as recently as four or three days ago," he said.
The 520-kilometre corridor links Alaska's panhandle to its interior and it's the only land connection between Alaska and the lower 48 states.
According to the 2018 U.S. Department of Transport numbers, there were 136,163 land border crossings from Yukon to Alaska of which 85 per cent of drivers were American.
Clarke said his office has already contacted his counterparts in Alaska to start conversations about future funding and highway upgrades.
"Of course we would love to have work commence as early as the spring or summer of 2022, but these are very early days in our discussions with our counterparts," he said.