Located in the United States and Canada, the original route of the 1520 mile (2432km) highway constructed in 1942, consisted of 298 miles (477km) in Alaska, 655 miles (1048km) in British Columbia and 567 miles (907km) in Yukon.
Location: Between Fairbanks, Alaska, United States and Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada.
Background: For many years, various schemes had been promoted to connect Alaska and the Yukon to the much more populous areas in Canada and the United States to the south. Although the completion, in 1900, of the White Pass and Yukon railway, joining Skagway, Alaska, USA with Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada ( recognized as an International Civil Engineering Landmark in 1994), provided a link from the interior to the Pacific, there was growing interest in a highway connection.
Two main routes were favoured (and shelved): one running through the coastal mountain ranges just east of the Alaska panhandle and the other running inland from Prince George, B.C. to Alaska. The bombing of Pearl Harbour, on the 7th. December, 1941, broke the impasse. The United States was prepared to build a highway, using the US Army Corps of Engineers to construct the pioneer road and civilian contractors under the direction of the US Public Roads Administration to complete the final alignment. Since the route passed through Canada, the Canadian Government gave permission for the route there and allowed the entry of the US military personnel and civilians needed to build it. The final route was decided upon by the US Army, General J.F.O'Conner, the commander of its Northwest Service Command stating "The primary purpose of this road was the airfields. The secondary purpose was to have an additional route to Alaska...Our sole aim...has been to give a road that would serve the military purpose and not have ...a peacetime road." Colonel William M.Hoge, the regional commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers, was assigned the daunting task of locating and building the pioneer road and PRA's Thomas H. MacDonald managed its four primary contractors, R. Melville Smith (from Ontario, Canada), Okes Construction (St. Paul, Minnesota, USA), Dowell Construction (Seattle, Washington, USA) and C. F. Lytle and Green Construction (Souix City, Iowa, USA) employing as many as 10,000 Americans and 3,700 Canadians at the peak season.
The road was completed in 1942 in a total of 8 months and the final cost was calculated, at the end of construction, by the PRA, at US$66,160.00/mile (US$41,350/km)