Contractors managed to complete just 29 of the 40 kilometres they’d hope to complete on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway this winter, but the Northwest Territories’ Department of Transportation says the project is not behind schedule.

Highways director Kevin McLeod says he's confident the contractors, E Gruben Transport and Northwind Industries, can finish the project on time by the winter of 2018.

Crews got off to a late start because the construction contract was signed in January and it took some time to get crews and equipment in place.

McLeod says the contractor agreed to do the work for a set price, so any delays won’t cost taxpayers more money.  

"If they get delayed a year for whatever reason, what's wrong with another year of employment?” he asks. “I'm trying to figure out if there's bad things that happen if there's a delay. I can't think of one. Other than someone gets another job for a year, and that's not a bad thing."

This winter 330 people worked on the project.

McLeod says in future seasons that could go up to 500 people.

The plan is to resume construction on the road in mid-November and work until May.

That means next year's construction season is expected to be twice as long as this year's.

Road will use local gravel 

The entire Inuvik to Tuk highway will be built with locally sourced gravel.

The department of Transportation spent millions of dollars drilling to determine if rock blasted out of the tundra could be packed to form the road.

McLeod says they’ve found enough granular material that they won't have to import any from outside the region.

And the quality is better than they initially thought.

"Experts are saying it will do the job for you. Is it Cadillac? It's not Cadillac. I would say it's kinda like a Volvo, very steady. Very methodical. It'll do the business and it'll be just fine."

McLeod says some gravel pits are metres from the highway route.

He says the furthest trucks will haul gravel is 30 kilometres.

Building the highway will take about 8 million cubic metres of gravel.

McLeod says crews have been hauling 9000 cubic metres of gravel a day.

The plan is to finish the 140-kilometre highway in late 2017 or early 2018.