For a half century and more, an all-weather Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway has been imagined, proposed, talked about in the Northwest Territories. Call it Jack Kerouac on the tundra, the chance to get on the road year-round and drive across a part of Canada glorious in its harsh beauty and still the last frontier.
The project, which began in 2014 and has put hundreds of surveyors, equipment operators and labourers to work, is expected to be completed in 2017-18. A series of photographs from the New York Times shows the land and people of a place apart, soon to be linked to the rest of the country.
Inuvik, with a population of about 3,500, is in the Mackenzie Delta above the Arctic Circle and is the current northern terminus of the Dempster Highway, connecting the Inuvik region to the Yukon highway system.
Tuktoyaktuk, known as Tuk, is a hamlet of about 1,000 on the shore of the Arctic Ocean northeast of Inuvik. Its location has been used for centuries by the Inuvialuit people as a camp for harvesting caribou and hunting whales.
The 138-kilometre ITH is expected to cost about $300 million, two-thirds covered by the federal government, the rest by provinces and territories involved in the project.
Maintenance costs — estimated at from $2,000 to $8,000 per kilometre a year — fall to the territory. The benefit of the highway’s top-of-the-world location on the treeless open tundra is reduced snowplowing cost, as snow tends to blow off the roadway.
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