When Eddie Gruben got into the transportation business in the 1950s in the Northwest Territories, his means of locomotion for hauling supplies between Arctic communities was dogsled.
The corporate logo for E. Gruben’s Transport Ltd. is still a man with a pack on his back and a dog team. But the company — now grown into a successful contracting and project management firm with offices in Inuvik and Edmonton and headquarters in Tuktoyaktuk — has changed dramatically.
This week, so did the region, with the official opening on Wednesday of the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk Highway, a road Eddie’s grandson helped build. “It’s a lot of years coming,” said Merven Gruben, a former mayor of the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk and current vice-president of the firm his late grandfather founded. “It’s something that we’ve been dreaming about for so many years.”
The 138-kilometre, $300-million gravel highway with a 70-km/h speed limit now gives Canadians year-round driving access to the Arctic Ocean and links Tuktoyaktuk to the rest of the country.
By accommodating year-round delivery of goods to Tuk, the highway is expected to reduce the cost of living for residents there by about $1.5 million — or more than $1,500 each — every year. It’s a town where last year the price of a pint of grape tomatoes hit $10 before the ice road opened for the season.