The manager of the $299 million all-weather Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway project says it remains on track entering its final construction season.
"We're on budget and we're on time," said Kevin McLeod, director of highways and marine for the Northwest Territories transportation department.
"We're seeing the completion of the project in the fall of 2017."
McLeod said this winter workers will be moving gravel to bring the surface of the final 3.5 kilometres of the 120 kilometre road up to full height. They will also be working on two bridges, installing eight culverts and putting down a layer of surfacing gravel to smooth the drive for those who will be using it next fall.
McLeod said there's been more water to deal with than usual, as a result of above average levels of rain and snow during construction.
But he added the extra precipitation was anticipated in the design of the highway. He said engineering calculations for the height of the road and size of culverts were doubled and in some cases tripled to ensure they were appropriate for the amount of water.
"The road is holding up," he said. "There are some soft areas that they're working on to make sure the water doesn't pond there. We are moving water away from the road in terms of ditching and making sure the water goes where it's supposed to go."
Back in January, the department reported that it was lowering the height of the road above the tundra from 1.6 metres to 1.2 for the final 56 kilometres of the highway to save $10-$13 million. At the time, McLeod said the decision was based on a number of factors, including the contractor's ability to finish the road on time and on budget.
The road is being built by a joint venture of E. Gruben Transport and Northwind Industries. McLeod said 80 to 100 people will be working on the road during the final season, down from 530 during the peak of construction. He estimates that $120 million has been spent in the region on the project so far.
The transportation department is already gathering input in preparation for both the grand opening of the highway and to mark the final year of the winter road that links the two communities.
"We're working with local folks about opening ceremonies and how we can appropriately mark this landmark, and how we can appropriately mark the last ice road that we will be building from Inuvik to Tuk and all the work that was done by those pioneers," McLeod said.