A new, $300 million two-lane road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk is replacing a seasonal ice road, making it Canada’s first permanent road to the Arctic coast.
Darrel Nasogaluak, mayor of the Northwest Territories hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, told the National Post that the road has been on the community’s bucket list for the past 40 years. The road’s opening ceremony will kick off on Nov. 15 in Inuvik, and an official motorcade will travel to Tuk where there will be fireworks, speeches, and a giant feast featuring local delicacies, including caribou, reindeer, whale, and muktuk.
The scenery is unusual on the 120-kilometer Inuvik-Tuk road. Drivers leave a forested area and enter the tundra before reaching the ocean, crossing streams, and bridges along the way. According to N.W.T. Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann, who has traveled on half the road, “When you come out of Inuvik, for about 20 kilometers you don’t realize how much you’re going uphill. The trees just get smaller and smaller and smaller and all of a sudden you’re on the top of a mountain and there are no trees and you can see about 100 kilometers on both sides of the highway. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Residents have wanted a permanent road in place since the ‘60s. During the ‘70s, they started doing surveys. By 2009, after years of urging by Northeast Territory aboriginals and businesses, Ottawa granted the area $200 million in funding.
Tuk is preparing for a boost in tourism by increasing the number of RV parking sites and public restrooms. The local bed and breakfast have also expanded to ready for an influx of visitors. A new sit-down restaurant is also opening in town, the first one since 2007.
The new road is expected to save every single resident in Tuk about $1,500 per year in cost-of-living expenses. In addition, transportation costs will drop, thus boosting the local economy. There were 898 residents in Tuk as of 2016.
It’s not the only infrastructure request the territory has made. Residents want an all-weather road from Yellowknife to a port on Nunavut’s western coast as well as an all-weather road to Mackenzie Valley. The result would benefit both those living in the territories as well as Canadians as a whole.