Nfld. & Labrador

Considering the Corridor: Is a northern transportation network possible?

A report from the University of Calgary is renewing a decades-old conversation about the pros and cons of a Northern Corridor.
Kent Fellows, who helped write a report on a Northern Corridor, said the estimated cost is $100 billion. (CBC)

A report from the University of Calgary is renewing a decades-old conversation about the pros and cons of a Northern Corridor, a massive transportation network that aims to reduce the cost of moving goods to and from northern communities, including in Labrador.

"We look at putting together a right-of-way, an established path that could use several different modes of transportation," said Kent Fellows, co-author of the report.

"We're thinking road, rail, electricity transmission — maybe different types of pipeline." 

The right-of-way would run 7,000 kilometres east to west starting in Labrador, and would connect the resource-rich north to the primary transportation network in southern Canada and the United States, improving market access overseas.

The Northern Corridor would be 7000 km long, between 1 and 5 km wide and consist of road, rail, pipeline and transmission lines. (Andrei Sulzenko/G. Kent Fellows)

Northern businesses and consumers could potentially benefit, said Fellows, by the expected decrease in the cost of goods. He cites a 2008 parliamentary report that says it costs an average of 30 per cent more to live in the north, a strain all too familiar to people living in isolated Labrador communities.

"So that means on average everything you're buying beyond areas serviced by the current transportation grid costs 30 per cent more," said Fellows in an interview with CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"That really stifles development because if you're a firm trying to locate in these regions, you have to pay a premium to get people to want to live there to work for you, and people who are already living there end up paying more and more for these goods."

The estimated cost of the Northern Corridor is $100 billion. Fellows says that expense would be spread out over the decades it would likely take to create the infrastructure. He says private sector investment, from industries like mining, could fund portions of the project — such as the railway — to gain access to the network. 

Fellows said the report only scratches the surface, and the Northern Corridor concept would need deeper study to determine if it makes practical sense.

With files from Labrador Morning