FAIRBANKS, Alaska - If you approach the start of the Dalton Highway, you'll see that a new sign has been added to the 'Gateway to the Arctic'. The Dalton Highway, also known as the Haul Road, begins 84 miles outside Fairbanks and ends in the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields. While it aided in construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and allows access to the oil fields, it has another history that may not be as well known.
In 1981, the highway was named after James William Dalton, an engineer who was involved in early oil exploration on the North Slope. And while a sign was placed with the Dalton name, it bore no information about Dalton himself. Since 2002, his wife Kathleen pushed to have a sign installed, detailing the road's namesake.
"I started asking for some interest from the state when Frank Murkowski was governor, and I talked to the attorney general and he said 'Oh, that's okay, I took notes. I'll pass them on," Dalton said.
Kathleen continued to make her request heard for years.
"So then in comes another governor and I talked to him and documented what I wanted to do. And then he left and another guy came in and was the governor, so it has gone through about four governors," she said.
Now, after years of trying, and posting homemade signs, an official sign has been erected describing the work James Dalton did for the Distant Early Warning Line, as well as furthering oil exploration.
"It means a lot to me and my family," she said.
Keeping the history alive to honor the late James Dalton, the sign was installed by the Alaska Department of Transportation and is owned by the Tanana Yukon Historical Society, which will perform maintenance on the sign for ten years.