Concept

Richardson Highway

Summary
The Richardson Highway is a highway in the U.S. state of Alaska, running 368 miles (562 km) and connecting Valdez to Fairbanks. It is marked as Alaska Route 4 from Valdez to Delta Junction and as Alaska Route 2 from there to Fairbanks. It also connects segments of Alaska Route 1 between the Glenn Highway and the Tok Cut-Off. The Richardson Highway was the first major road built in Alaska. A pack trail from the port at Valdez to Eagle, a distance of about 409 miles (660 km), was built in 1898 by the U.S. Army to provide an "all-American" route to the Klondike gold fields. After the rush ended, the Army kept the trail open in order to connect its posts at Fort Liscum, in Valdez, and Fort Egbert, in Eagle. The Fairbanks gold rush in 1902, and the construction of a WAMCATS telegraph line along the trail in 1903, made the Valdez-to-Eagle trail one of the most important access routes to the Alaska Interior, so in 1910, the Alaska Road Commission upgraded it to a wagon road. The head of the project was U.S. Army General Wilds P. Richardson, for whom the highway was later named. During the construction, the government hired failed gold prospectors as well as regular construction workers. The income from this work allowed many of the prospectors to leave Alaska. Several roadhouses now on the National Register of Historic Places were constructed along the route at this time. The rise of motorized travel led the road to be upgraded to automobile standards in the 1920s. To finance continued maintenance and road construction, the Alaska Road Commission instituted tolls for commercial vehicles in 1933 of up to $175 per trip, which were collected at the Tanana River ferry crossing at Big Delta. When the tolls were further increased in 1941 to boost business for the Alaska Railroad, disgruntled truckers nicknamed "gypsies" started a rogue ferry service in order to evade the toll.
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