The PRA’s 1943 Road

The pioneer road completed by the end of 1942 was still only a rough draft of the Alaska Highway and it quickly fell apart under use. The Public Roads Administration (PRA) essentially rebuilt the road in 1943, turning it into a two-lane, gravel highway, while also battling the same problems with drainage, washouts and permafrost. The US Army was then responsible for maintaining the Alaska Highway for the duration of the war.

The Alaska Highway was the largest project ever undertaken by the PRA at that time. The best engineers and management personnel were brought from all over the US to aid the army in surveying the route and selecting the best sites for bridges, gravel pits, sawmills, and work camps. The PRA was also responsible for finding usable office and storage facilities, scouring the southern states for unused prefabricated buildings, tools, construction equipment and winter clothing, and arranging for the shipment of materials to the North. The principal contractors hired by the PRA included the American firms Dowell Construction, Okes Construction, Lytle and Green Construction, W. Green Co., and the Canadian firm, R. Melville Smith Co. At its peak, the PRA managed 81 private contractors working on the Alaska Highway and a total labour force of 15,900 men, of which 10,400 were US contracted employees, 1,800 were PRA employees, and 3,700 were Canadian contracted employees.

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Alaska Highway Construction Mud