The James W. Dalton Highway, usually referred to as the Dalton Highway (and signed as Alaska Route 11), is a 414-mile (666 km) road in Alaska. It begins at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks, and ends at Deadhorse (an unincorporated community within the CDP of Prudhoe Bay) near the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields. Once called the North Slope Haul Road (a name by which it is still sometimes known), it was built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974. It is named after James Dalton, a lifelong Alaskan and an engineer who supervised construction of the Distant Early Warning Line in Alaska and, as an expert in Arctic engineering, served as a consultant in early oil exploration in northern Alaska. It is also the subject of the second episode of America's Toughest Jobs and the first episode of the BBC's World's Most Dangerous Roads.

In 1966, Governor Walter J. Hickel opened the North Slope to oil extraction. To improve access to the oil fields, a 400-mile winter road was planned between Livengood and Prudhoe Bay. Construction started in November 1968, and the "Walter J. Hickel Highway" was completed by March 1969. Due to poor engineering, the construction of the road exposed the underlying permafrost to thawing, and the road was abandoned by April of that year.[1] Maintenance was not performed as the route was farther west than the planned Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.[2]

Following the failure of the Hickel Highway, oil companies still needed a route to the North Slope. The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company funded what would be the first stretch of the Dalton Highway from Livengood to the Yukon River in 1969.[2]

Delays to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, and therefore the road, meant that work on it did not resume until April 29, 1974.[3] Within 5 months, 390 miles of the road were built and construction was finished. The pipeline would not be completed until 1977.[2] It was initially known as the "Wales Highway".[4]

In 1979, Alyeska turned over control of the road to the state of Alaska, who gave it the official name of "James W. Dalton Highway", named after the prospector of the North Slope, James W. Dalton. In 1981, the highway was opened to the public up to Disaster Creek at mile 211. In 1994, the public was allowed access to the entire length of the highway.[2]

^ "Governor Walter J. Hickel and the Hickel Highway". The Alaska Pipeline. PBS. April 24, 2006. Retrieved October 21, 2021. ^ a b c d Historic Roads of Alaska: Driving the History of the Last Frontier (PDF). Alaska DOT&PF. 2017. Retrieved October 21, 2021. ^ "Dalton Highway". The Milepost. Retrieved October 21, 2021. ^ Pipeline drive: a roadside guide to the trans Alaska pipeline / Alyeska Pipeline Company, 1978, pp. 7-8
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Alaska DOT&PF - CC BY 2.0
Bureau of Land Management Alaska Photo by BLM Alaska/Karen Deatherage - CC BY 2.0
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