Men and equipment of the 18th Engineers building timber bridge across the Raspberry River north of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, in May 1942. Challenges faced by workers like these men make for a rich history full of Alaska Highway Trivia. Photo courtesy Office of History, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This route has a rich history and there’s a mountain of interesting Alaska Highway trivia. First proposed in 1929 by the International Highway Commission, the road didn’t come to fruition until World War II made it necessary.
People often still call the road by it’s original moniker, the Alcan Highway, short for Alaska-Canada Highway. It has been officially named the Alaska Highway since July 9, 1943, when Canada and the United States exchanged diplomatic notes and gave the route a formal name.
Construction began on the Alaska Highway on March 11, 1942, about 90 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Government officials decided the highway was essential to protect the United States from a Japanese attack on the North American mainland.
Workers faced swampy muskeg, swarming bugs, and bitter cold. Despite these challenges, they completed the highway on November 20, 1942, under nine months since construction began.
It was named an International Historical Engineering Landmark in 1996.
Alaska Highway Numbers
The historic milepost at the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction marks the length as 1,422 miles. Road improvements have gradually shortened the length of the highway. From Dawson City to Delta Junction is now about 1,387 driving miles.
Upon completion, the route had 133 major bridges and 8,000 culverts, which if stretched end-to-end would stretch over 57 miles.
The project cost $135 million. It was the most expensive construction project taken on by the United States government during WWII.
Initial shipment of equipment of construct the highway included 174 steam shovels, 374 blade graders, 904 tractors and more than 5,000 trucks. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation, a total of 250,000 tons of equipment and about 10,000 workers were involved in construction.
More than 100,000 tourists now drive the road in an average year.