A 50-year pledge to join Inuvik with the rest of the Northwest Territories by highway got one step closer last week.
Ottawa will pay nearly half of a $7 million study on an all-season highway that would stretch from Wrigley to Inuvik, the federal government announced in a news
The extension is expected to be more than 800-kilometers long and nearly half of it will be built over roadless territory.
The $3 million federal grant will be spread over two years; while the territory’s $4 million investment will be used over three years.
The study is only a stalling tactic that keeps the government from committing to any real construction, said Northwest Territories’ MP Dennis Bevington in a release.
“Northerners want to see action on this road, a three-year study isn’t what people are looking for, they want substantive action,” said New Democrat Dennis Bevington.
“In the ‘90s The Northern Alberta Development Council did their economic feasibility study for the road linking Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan in six months,” said
The highway extension has already been studied multiple times since it was first proposed by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1958.
In 2009, the NWT’s Department of Transportation released a study on the number of jobs the highway extension would create.
The department also completed a study in 1999 comparing the economic costs and benefits of a highway extension.
Currently, a paved section of the Mackenzie highway already reaches Wrigley from the southeast, connecting the tiny village with Yellowknife and the rest of the North
American highway grid.
Wrigley, which is nearly parallel to Pelly Crossing in latitude, is already connected with Fort Good Hope to the north by a winter-only dirt road.
And there’s no road between Fort Good Hope and Inuvik, whose only road connection is the Dempster Highway from the west.
Despite recent progress on the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline’s slow passage through regulators, the highway has nothing to do with the pipeline, said Earl Blackmore,
a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.
“There is some benefit for those engaged in exploration and development obviously, but this goes back to Diefenbaker,” said Blackmore.
The extension will lower the cost of living in Fort Good Hope and other towns, he said.
The Northwest Territories’ legislature passed a resolution a year ago to make construction of the highway extension a priority.
The federal money is being funnelled through the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
The agency also announced money to study a possible highway between Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk.
Both highway plans would link Alberta and North America to the heart of the Mackenzie gas region much more efficiently than the Dempster Highway currently does.