204: Construction of the Alaska Highway

The start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the completion of the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska.

Here are some things you may not have known about the highway.

A land route from the lower 48 states to Alaska was considered as far back as the 1920s. At the time, the Canadian government saw no value in the project, which would only serve a few thousand residents in the Yukon Territory. The idea was floated again several times in the 1930s, but didn’t gain any traction until after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The U.S. Army approved construction of the highway in February 1942, and the Canadians agreed to allow the construction if the U.S. paid the full cost and if the road reverted to Canadian control after the war.

Construction officially began on March 8, 1942 near the southern terminus at Dawson Creek. Later in the spring another crew began working from the northern end. The crews met at the 60th parallel on Sept. 24, 1942. The entire route was completed on Oct. 28 near Beaver Creek.

Upon completion, the road was a bumpy 1,700 miles. It remained closed to the public until 1948. Thanks to rerouting and straightening, the highway is now 1,387 miles and paved the entire distance.

Our question, the Alaska Highway is unofficially part of the Pan-American Highway which runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska on the Arctic Ocean to Ushuaia, Argentina at the tip of South America. There’s a 60-mile gap in the road, making it impossible to drive the entire length. If you were traveling southbound, in what country would you hit the gap?

Today is International Animation Day. In the United States it is unofficially national chocolate day. It’s the birthday of writer Evelyn Waugh, polio vaccine developer Dr. Jonas Salk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and actress Julia Roberts. For more about Salk and Gates, visit triviapeople.com for our past episodes on them.


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