The Mackenzie Aboriginal Corp. wants to breathe new life into an old idea: extending the Mackenzie Highway from Wrigley north to Tuktoyaktuk.

The 963-kilometre all-weather road would link the communities to the south and benefit the region, Gwich'in Tribal Council president Fred Carmichael told CBC News Tuesday.

Thecouncil's development armowns 51 per cent of the corporation, whilefive other partners own the rest.

Although the corporation was formedto ensure aboriginal involvement in theproposed Mackenzie gas pipeline construction, Carmichael said it is also interested inbuilding aroad along much of the same route.

"The extension of the Mackenzie Highway up to Tuk is definitely interesting to us," Carmichael said. "We feel that there is a need for the extension of that highway to open up the country to resources."

The cost of building the road is estimated to be about $700 million.

Carmichael will present the road proposal to the Dene National Assembly in Behchoko in July to gauge support for a feasibility study.

Even though Carmichael is convinced the road would reduce the cost of building the Mackenzie gas pipeline, now pegged at $16.2 billion, Imperial Oilhas never factored a road into its plans.

"All of our engineering, design, construction plans are based upon infrastructure that currently exists," said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for Imperial Oil. "And I think that's the only realistic way to approach it."

In the Northwest Territories, the federal government is responsible for building new infrastructure, while the territory is responsible for maintaining it once it has been built.