The N.W.T. government has approved $65 million in spending that will allow construction on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway to start this fall.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada will provide an additional $50 million for the road, for a total federal contribution of $200 million. That represents two-thirds of the cost of the $300 million project.
With 1,000 new jobs over the four-year construction period, because the contractors will be local there will be many Inuvialuit youth who learn how to work safely on any jobsite, operate heavy equipment, manage teams of people, develop remote areas, build roads, as well as supply and support a remote workforce. Even before this highway is done, residents will be ideally prepared to maximize their involvement in the next wave resource exploration and development activity around the Beaufort.
In total 4.5 B cubic meters of road bed material will be required to build the road. Imperial Oil, which is working collaboratively with joint-venture partners BP Canada and ExxonMobil Canada to eventually explore two offshore parcels in the Beaufort Sea, says it could receive regulatory approval for a drilling program as early as 2015. Its exploration licences for those parcels are set to expire in 2019 and 2020.
Once completed, the Inuvik-Tuk section will finally free Tuktoyaktuk from its current isolation and high food prices. (Unlike its close neighbour Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk is not connected to the Yukon’s Dempster Highway.) Flying goods in to Tuktoyaktuk currently costs $3 per pound, whereas trucking the goods in would only cost 15 cents per pound.
The Tuk road is good news for the struggling economy in the Beaufort. The new infrastructure will reduce the cost of living for Tuk residents and make Beaufort exploration activities more attractive.