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$2 million more for Beaufort highway
Final decision on Inuvik to Tuk highway expected in 2013

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 12, 2012

The legislative assembly has approved $2 million to complete preliminary studies on the proposed Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway project and the minister of Transportation said a final decision on the project could be decided during the next sitting of the legislative assembly in February.

NNSL photo/graphic

Work is underway in 2009 on an all-weather road from Tuktoyaktuk to a gravel pit 22 km southeast of the hamlet, which is along the proposed route for the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway. - NNSL file photo

About $9.5 million has already been spent on the project for environmental assessments and engineering studies.

"We're really positive about this and really gung-ho," said Merven Gruben, mayor of Tuktoyaktuk. "As it is, it's pretty quiet here so it couldn't happen at a better time."

The highway became a top priority for the GNWT after the federal government committed $150 million to the project, based on a 75-25 cost sharing estimate. Final cost estimates for the highway will not be available until 2013, but it's expected to carry a price tag of between $200 and $300 million.

Once completed, the highway will connect from the Dempster highway's end in Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean. It will be Canada's only highway to reach the Arctic Ocean.

Jane Groenewegen, MLA for Hay River, raised concerns in the last session that the GNWT is marching to the beat of the federal government's drum and not making decisions based on what's best for the territory.

She asked why the work shouldn't start in a region that is already embarking on an economic boom, such as the Sahtu region, or on any number of capital projects pending GNWT approval.

"What puts this project in that special light is the fact that Canada is one of the only countries in the circumpolar world that doesn't have road access to the Arctic Ocean," David Ramsay, minister of Transportation, said in answer to Groenewegen's question.

"Certainly, that is something that the federal government felt, from a security and a sovereignty standpoint, was something that they wanted to see happen."

Norman Yakeleya, MLA for the Sahtu, said the GNWT would be wise to take advantage of federal interest and the construction should be closely followed by infrastructure development in the booming Sahtu region.

"I think the federal government put a lot of money into the road there and it's a signal that we could and should be going on to complete it," he said. "It's something that's needed up in that area. We also want to see the same type of support once the oil and gas exploration heats up in the Sahtu."

Gruben said the highway has been on his mandate throughout the 17 years he's worked on council.

"It's not only good for Tuk, but of course it will be good for Tuk," said Gruben. "It'll bring our cost of living down, price of fuel, everything will come down.

"Right off the bat, a lot of work for the community and not just for Tuk but for Inuvik, the whole Beaufort Delta region will be busy for a few years."

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