Yukon News

Liberals say they’re still committed to paving Dawson’s runway

Ashley Joannou Wednesday May 17, 2017

Joel Krahn/Yukon News

dawsonrunway.jpg

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn says the government is committed to paving Dawson’s runway.

The Yukon government says it still intends to pave the Dawson City runway a day after its resolve appeared a little less certain.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn told the legislative assembly May 16 “this Liberal government remains firm on its commitment to pave the Dawson City runway.”

The minister said the government needs to finish studying the issue, accusing the former Yukon Party of not getting all of the work done when it was in office.

Both the Liberals and Yukon Party pledged to pave the runway in Dawson, something Air North and the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce have said would benefit the community.

“I learned upon coming into this job that the groundwork had not been done,” Mostyn said. “That was frankly a surprise to me, but that was the inheritance.”

When speaking to reporters a day earlier, Mostyn said the government was “nowhere near saying no to paving the Dawson City runway” but added there were questions that needed answers.

“I wish it was clear cut but we’re dealing with federal officials who have federal staff who have safety concerns. There are all sorts of very complicated federal Transport Canada regulations that we’re trying to sift through.

According to the Whitehorse Star, Premier Sandy Silver told constituents in March that Transport Canada had suggested that simply paving the runway wouldn’t bring the airport up to compliance standards for the larger craft Air North would like to use here.

Spokesperson Sunny Patch said the government wants to confirm that paving the runway would not require any changes to the regulations that govern it.

Air North president Joe Sparling said the length and location of the Dawson runway creates some limitations for planes.

“They are performance limitations we can live with, they don’t have a terribly adverse impact on our Holland America charter program for example,” he said.

“We can’t haul quite a full load onto or off of the existing gravel runway. With a paved runway, using a more modern aircraft, we still won’t be able to haul a full load in or out of Dawson. But we’ll be able to haul more than we can haul now, under most conditions.”

Sparling insists Transport Canada has confirmed “that paving the runway will allow us to operate the more modern type of 737 that we wish to operate into Dawson.”

An email from a Transport Canada spokesperson said a runway’s length, width, and surface type determine what aircraft can use it.

“Currently, only gravel-rated aircraft can land at Dawson City Airport. If the airport paves the runway, non-gravel rated aircraft could land there; however, their size would be determined by the new runway’s length and width,” the statement said.

“The owner/operator of the Dawson City Airport is responsible for airport operations, including decisions about runway paving and what type of aircraft can operate into the airport.”

A business case analysis released last year estimates it would cost $11 million to pave Dawson’s runway and that operations and maintenance would cost about $800,000 each year after that. Operations and maintenance of the existing gravel runway cost about $560,000 each year, the report said.

The same report estimates a paved runway would have a net benefit of about $4.7 million over the next 12 years, and would create about 76 jobs during construction.

Money to do the work isn’t in this year’s budget. The government has allotted $250,000 for planning.

If money were no object, the runway in Dawson would ideally be moved, Sparling said.

Moving the runway would give Air North the option of using even bigger planes with heavier loads, he said, though he acknowledged that would come with a larger price tag.

“From our perspective, if it’s spend the least amount of money or do nothing, we would prefer to see them pave the existing gravel surface.”

Mostyn told reporters May 15 that the draft report he’s seen doesn’t mention moving the runway.

There’s no word on when paving could start. The minister said the report he needs is about 75 per cent complete.

Contact Ashley Joannou at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

9 Comments

Yukonmax wrote:
9:34am Monday May 22, 2017

Once again, it is for the industry to build a case for the paving of Dawson City Airport. So far we only witnessed the fading interests of the major players who have sold just about everything they owned in the Yukon. Also, I was at the last meeting in Dawson where Pat Duncan and “Tremblay” were presenting the project to Dawsonites about 18 years ago. Promises of being on time and on budget…what a load of crap it was. Some attendees said they had participated in the same charade 20 years prior. Like this is in the planing for almost 50 years. Why hasn’t it been done so far? Reason must prevail.

We don't need it. wrote:
11:11am Friday May 19, 2017

I’m not sure there are many in Dawson that feel the need to pave the runway. There are far more important and influential projects that should have priority.

Steve wrote:
9:04am Friday May 19, 2017

At the cost of $11.0m and annual costs of $850k, there is an “alternative to paving” solution on the market that has been implemented at over 100 runways with Canadian Governments (Yukon, NWT, MB, Quebec, Ontario).  The Solution is called Midwest Gravel Runway Surfacing and Fines Preservation.  This can be incorporated into the soils during the rebuild and annual applications for a total cost of 50% the total cost over 15 years of the paved option.

This solution is being used at a private runway at a mine site that receives Hercs, 737 equipment.  The project is to have a net cost savings over 20 years of $6m to the runway operator.  Less rebuilds, less overlays.

Read about it here:  http://midwestind.com/fines-preservation/

Reach out to John Burnett or Bob Vitale for more information on how to get the same Pavement surface but at a more much manageable cost.  This solution will cost 85% less of the $11m construction cost and the yearly maintenance will be 65% less per year.  The traffic that Dawson could receive is same as today.

Dawson wrote:
6:40am Friday May 19, 2017

Hey Dawson
And thanks very much for your, er, amusing (?) comment.
There are numerous projects around the Yukon that have experienced ongoing issues with site conditions due to permafrost/ice lenses.  A bit of planning now just makes sense.  This is a valid concern.  Pave the airport, but factor in these costs, otherwise we’ll end up with another rec. center.

Spider wrote:
12:18pm Thursday May 18, 2017

FYI. There is no permafrost in the ground at the airport. Tests confirmed this a few years ago. The R and M costs are obviously taken into account, as it states in the report an increase of $240 K annually.

Hey Dawson ... wrote:
11:10am Thursday May 18, 2017

The runway is in a river valley that, to my knowledge, has no permafrost. The paved aprons that are already at the airport are also a good indication of how a paved runway will weather over time (there are no cracks) but thanks for your expert engineers opinion all the same.

Dawson wrote:
10:14am Thursday May 18, 2017

Out of curiosity, has anyone factored in future maintenance and repair costs associated with the hard surfacing of the airport?  It’s on permafrost.  Dark surfaces exacerbate subsurface melting/freezing.  There will be seasonal cracking and shifting, and while repairing the existing gravel surface is relatively easy (run a grader down it) repairing hard surface problems will be much, much more costly.

ralpH wrote:
9:59am Thursday May 18, 2017

@nile although I agree runway should be paved,and they will drag it out for sure there are just to many other priorities out there. I would not want to be this government right now.

Nile wrote:
7:53am Thursday May 18, 2017

Liberals flip flopping?  What a surprise. My guess it that they will drag this out until he next election.

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