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Feds award $229 million contract for northern highway

Richard Gilbert

A $229.3 million contract has been awarded to EGT-Northwind Ltd. for the construction of the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway in the Northwest Territories, which is the first all-weather road between the Arctic coast and the rest of Canada.

“The contract that is to be signed with EGT-Northwind reflects their experience in the North. It reflects their commitment to hire northerners and to work with other northern businesses,” said Minister of Transportation Tom Beaulieu.

“The Government of Northwest Territories will support training and development opportunities arising from this project, to the benefit of all NWT residents.”

The territorial government announced on Jan. 10 that a notification of acceptance and authorization was issued to EGT-Northwind Ltd. to begin construction of the highway.

A formal signing of the contract will follow.

The official start of the project was marked with a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 8, which involved the prime minister.

“This historic project realizes the visionary initiative of Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker back in the 1960s,” said Harper, who added that the construction of the highway will facilitate economic development and improve the lives of people in the North for generations to come.

The project involves the construction of about 140 kilometres of gravel road from the Town of Inuvik to the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, which will extend the Dempster Highway to the Arctic coast.

The road will provide year-round overland access to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea, which is currently accessible only by an ice road, barge or air.

Other components of the project, which is expected to be built by local and regional contractors, are:

watercourse crossing structures;

borrow and quarry areas to support construction, operations and maintenance requirements;

construction staging areas;

maintenance areas;

temporary construction camp facilities;

temporary construction access roads; and,

ongoing operations of the all-weather highway.

The project also involves the construction and installation of a total of 84 stream crossing structures, consisting of 52 culverts, nine bridges, and 23 culverts or short bridges.

The foundation of the project’s construction methodology is to use primarily winter construction techniques instead of more typical summer construction, often used in southern Canada.

This strategy has the advantage of allowing the use of temporary ice/winter road construction to provide access to borrow sources, without the need to construct costly all-weather access roads.

It also promotes highway stability through the placement of frozen borrow material directly onto frozen ground.

In the first construction year, it is anticipated that most construction settlement will occur in the top layers of the emplaced borrow material as it thaws, dries and consolidates.

Little to no thaw is expected in the lower layers of the embankment in the first few years.

This should lead to greater highway stability than has been the case in this area with the placement of warm fill on thawed ground during summer construction.

A temporary winter road will run roughly parallel to the alignment and it will provide access to borrow sources for the duration of the winter construction periods.

Construction material will be loaded at the borrow sources using excavators and hauled along the temporary winter roads using both tractor-trailer units and articulated trucks.

The total construction cost for the project is $230 million and completion is expected in 2018.

It is estimated that 668 direct jobs will be created during the four-year construction period.

The main benefits of the project are: more efficient transport of northern products and resources to southern markets; access for Northerners to high quality, well-paying jobs; and lower cost supplies and materials for northern communities.

The total contribution to the gross domestic product of the Northwest Territories from the construction of the project is estimated at $135 million.

The developer for this project collectively is the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, the Town of Inuvik and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

The Canadian government, led by John Diefenbaker, made a decision to build a 671 km road from Dawson City to Inuvik in 1958.

This was Canada’s first all-weather road to cross the Arctic Circle.

The Dempster Highway was officially opened in August, 1979, at Flat Creek, Yukon.

It was as a two-lane, gravel-surfaced, all-weather highway that ran from the Klondike Highway near Dawson City to Fort McPherson and Arctic Red River in the Northwest Territories.

It also linked with the Mackenzie Highway at a point 67 km south of Inuvik.

The highway is named after a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector named William John Duncan Dempster.

As a young constable, he frequently ran the dog sled trail from Dawson City to Fort McPherson.

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