Construction of an Alaska highway by way of Edmonton, the northern tip of British Columbia and the Yukon is entirely feasible, in the opinion of a United States army commission which returned to Edmonton Wednesday after an inspection of the route as far as Fort Nelson, B.C.
(Meanwhile, in New York. the Canadian-American joint defence board was meeting Wednesday to consider recommendations to the two governments on construction of the Alaska road. It was learned emphasis in the present discussions is on the route via Edmonton.)
Decision whether the road will be built is not within the province of the commission. Their job, the members stressed, primarily was to see the route at first hand and make a report to Washington as to whether the construction of the rosd was possible.
No barriers exist, the commission has decided. But, they added, if the road is constructed it will be a huge job.
The commission is headed by Col. W. M. Hoge, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Col. Hoge was to leave Edmonton later Wednesday for Washington and to hand the report of the commission to the chief of the Corps of Engineers.
Other members of the commission are Lieut-Col. R. D. Ingalls, Corps of Engineers ; Lieut.-Col. E. A. Mueller, quartermaster; and C. F. Capes, a civilian, who is senior highway engineer for the U.S. public roads administration.
His commission, Col. Hoge said, is not empowered to recommend the Alaska highway be built. "Our job is solely to see whether a road could be built and to report back," he said.
By Train and Car
The commission travelled by train to Grande Prairie, then by car to Dawson Creek, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson. They returned by the same route by car and rail. Weather during the entire trip, Col. Hoge said, was "excellent" and the group was given every opportunity of examining the route at first hand.
Asked if his commission had or was planning to examine a proposed route up the British Columbia coast, Col. Hoge said it had not, either by traveling it "or on paper."
One of the difficulties met by the commission during its northern trip was the lack of authoritative maps of the area.
H. P. Keith, engineer with the federal department of transport, met the officials at Dawson Creek and accompanied them on the rest of the journey, Col. Hoge said. Help given the commission by Mr. Keith and other men experienced in the north was of "great use," he added.
Regarding a report that the commission had reserved storage space at Dawson Creek for equipment, Col. Hoge said this was entirely false. He said the commission had made inquiries along the complete route about storage space but this had only been done to increase its knowledge and facts of the route and that no committments had been made anywhere.
Wednesday the Canadian-American joint defence board was meeting in New York to consider recommendations to the two governments on the construction of the Alaska highway. Asked if he would make any recommendations to this board, Col. Hoge said he had not been instructed to make any report and that his recommendations were to go direct to the chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Will Hurry Back
He added that he will get back to Washington "just as quickly as I can."
Nothing is known even by men of the north of some of the sections of ground covered by the route to Alaska, Col. Hoge said. He said this lack of knowledge of certain areas and also the complete lack of "real" maps or even any kind of maps of some areas was one of the handicaps the commission met in making a complete study of the route.
It would be impossible for him, he added, to estimate how long it would take to construct the highway if the decision to build was made. It would depend, he said, "on just how much effort was put into it and just what natural barriers of the country were met during the construction."
Col. Hoge said the other officials were in conference Wednesday morning with Hon. W. A. Fallow, minister of public works, and other department officials.
"I assured Col. Hoge that the department of public works is at his service, either in the engineering or construction branches," Mr. Fallow stated after the conference.
"I said that anything that is required which we may have will be made available in order to assist in the construction of the highway," said the minister.
The minister pointed out that speedy action would be required to take advantage of winter weather conditions during possibly the next three weeks for the moving of road equipment.
The U.S. officials told the minister that nothing definite concerning their recommendations would be known until the U.S.-Canada joint defence board holds a meeting in Washington.
With Col. Hoge at the interview were Lt.-Col. C. A. Mueller and C. F. Capes.
Mr. Fallow said Mr. Capes will remain here to keep in close touch with the department of public works and ascertain actual requirements for construction purposes.
"I have issued instructions that every possible co-operation shall be given by this department," said Mr. Fallow.
Highway Is Discussed
By J. F. Sanderson
By Joint Defence Board
(Canadian Press Staff Writer)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 - The Canadian-American joint defence board is meeting in New York Wednesday to consider recommendations to the two governments on the construction of the Alaska highway.
It was learned the emphasis in the present discussions between Canada and the U.S. is on a route from Edmonton, north through the Peace River country to White Horse in the Yukon, thence into Alaska, a route considerably further inland than those hitherto regarded as the most advantageous.
The Edmonton-White Horse route would follow or parallel the string of seven airfields built by the Canadian government last year on the recommendation of the joint defence board to permit rapid transit of men and materials from the U.S. to Alaska.
It is hoped in some quarters here that work will start on the Alaska road by April 1 and it is expected that if the Edmonton-Whitehorse route is selected U.S. army engineers will commence actual construction this year.
In the opinion of some quarters here, the Edmonton route, sometimes called the prairie route, would have at least three advantages over the others which would run closer to the coast. The inland route, they say, would parallel the air fields; it would be far enough inland to escape all fog and finally, it would be easier to defend in the event of an invasion of the west coast.
It was emphasized here, however, that the Edmonton route has not been selected finally and probably will not be until the joint defence board acts and until the U.S. army engineers complete their preliminary investigation.
Estimates of the cost of a 24-foot gravel highway run as high as $50,000,000 with maintenance placed at $1,000,000 per year. Delegate A. J. Dimond, of Alaska, has a bill before congress to authorize construction of the road, the whole cost to be borne by the U.S.
The Dimond bill leaves the choice of a route to the U.S. government but he personally favours it running from Prince George to Fairbanks by way of Whitehorse, the one closest to the coast.