After few weeks, Canada’s Arctic coastline will be linked by road to the rest of Canada for the first time in history. Local residents hope the new $299 million highway will be a pathway to prosperity. Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, snakes its way through 137 kilometres of Northwest Territories tundra.
The road connects the Town of Inuvik with population 3200 to Tuktoyaktuk, a village on the Arctic Ocean whose roughly 850 residents are currently linked to the south only by sea, bush plane or winter ice road.
Inuvik has been connected to Whitehorse, Yukon, since the Dempster Highway opened in 1979, but locals there see Arctic access as a big economic opportunity.
Among the obstacles of road building in the far north are winter temperatures that dip below -40 degrees Celsius.Another problem is permafrost, the thick layer of soil, rock and ice that can melt and shift during summertime.
Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald, who was born and raised in Inuvik, said the town has struggled economically. The four-year project with $200 million in funding from Ottawa and $99 million from the territorial government has already been a boon.McDonald said he hopes the highway will lead to more local trade and new jobs in sectors like tourism.