Construction season ends on Arctic Canadian highway

An explosion near Tuktoyaktuk releases gravel at the beginning highway construction season in 2014. (CBC)
An explosion near Tuktoyaktuk releases gravel at the beginning highway construction season in 2014. (CBC)
The second highway construction season between the Arctic Canadian communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk has come to a close.

In all, progress was made on 65.1 kilometres of highway during the 2014-2015 winter construction season.

When finished, the all-season Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway will run 137 kilometres.

“Our Government is pleased to see the tremendous progress made on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway,” said Leona Aglukkaq Canada’s Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency in a  statement this week.  “This historic project is creating jobs and ensuring continued economic growth and long-term prosperity in Canada’s North.”

The Numbers

Total cost: $299 million

Progress: 2.1 million cubic metres of embankment material hauled and placed

New bridges: 1

Culverts: 20 completed during 2014-2015 construction season

Sources: Government of Canada, Government of Northwest Territories

All-weather road

Inuvik is a town of approximately 3400 people in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

It’s connected by the Dempster Highway to the neighbouring Yukon territory.

Tuktoyaktuk, a predominantly Inuit community of approximately 825 people, is situated north of Inuvik on the Beaufort Sea coast. In winter, an ice road connects it to Inuvik. Otherwise, the community is served by air or by barge.

Passengers take a break on the ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk over the Mackenzie River. The new highway will connect the town of Inuvik with the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk year round. (CBC)
Passengers take a break on the ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk over the Mackenzie River. The new highway will connect the town of Inuvik with the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk year round. (CBC)
Economic benefits

The  new all-weather road is expected to reduce Tuktoyaktuk’s cost of living and increase business opportunities in the region, especially around oil and gas exploration.

“Strategic investments in territory-building infrastructure projects will help us better achieve our government’s vision of a strong, prosperous Northwest Territories,” said Tom Beaulieu, the Northwest Territories minister of transportation, in a news release.

“We are very pleased with the contractor’s progress and achievements with local employment, training, safety, and quality under difficult conditions.”

The Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway is scheduled to finish in 2016.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  The geometries of Arctic all-weather road construction, Blog by Mia Bennett

NorwayNorway delays bridge-building to Russia on road to Crimea, Barents Observer

Russia: Murmansk, Russia: Transport hub trouble, again, Barents Observer

United States:  Plans to raise Arctic Alaska highway with 2 million tons of gravel, Alaska Dispatch News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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