All-season road to Whatì named Tłı̨chǫ Highway, or Highway 9

The new all-season road set to open in fall 2021 will provide year-round access to Whatì, N.W.T., and increase access to the winter roads to Gamètì and Wekweètì.

Opening in a year, Tłı̨chǫ Highway will help reduce cost of living and increase economic opportunities

A part of the new road that will be called the Tłı̨chǫ Highway, or Highway 9. (Bill Braden/GNWT Dept. of Infrastructure)

A new all-season road that will provide year-round access to Whatì, N.W.T., will be known as the Tłı̨chǫ Highway, or Highway 9, the Northwest Territories and Tłı̨chǫ governments announced in a joint news release Tuesday afternoon.

Set to open in the fall of 2021, the road will also increase access to the winter roads to Gamètì and Wekweètì.

"Formerly known as the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season Road, the new name underscores the importance of this new highway for the Tłı̨chǫ region," the news release states.

The Public Highways Act has been updated to reflect the new official name, the statement adds.

The winter roads to Gamètì and Wekweètì can only open after the winter road to Whatı̀, which is vulnerable to fluctuating conditions, has opened, the release states. 

It said the all-season road to Whatì will likely result in the winter roads to Gamètì and Wekweètı̀ opening sooner and closing later. 

The Tlicho all-season road (TASR) would connect Whati to Highway 3, year-round. Right now, the smaller Tlicho communities are only accessible by air and winter road (in blue). (Government of the Northwest Territories)

"The new highway will help reduce the cost of living for the region and support new social opportunities, while helping attract further interest from industry in the exploration and development of natural resources," the release says.

Construction of the all-weather road began in September 2019. To date, the project has employed 256 people, including 109 local residents, and 9,599 hours of local job training has taken place, the governments say. Ninety-seven kilometres of right-of-way clearing have been completed, 85 kilometres of embankment have been built, and 48 bridge piles have been installed. 

Road is result of partnership

Tłıc̨hǫ Grand Chief George Mackenzie said in a statement that the road "is the result of many years of planning, partnerships and hard work by former and present leaders and our collective governments.

"This is the way any projects on Indigenous land should be developed. Our partnership with the [government of the Northwest Territories] and Kiewit has been a great success for our people and companies, and there is great potential for future projects in our region," he says.

The news release said infrastructure projects like the Tłı̨chǫ Highway will continue to play a significant part in the COVID-19 economic recovery. 

"Not only do such projects inject money into the economy, they also provide business and employment opportunities for residents, while delivering the critical infrastructure the NWT needs," the release reads.

Diane Archie, N.W.T. Minister of Infrastructure, said that "working in partnership with Indigenous governments is a normal part of how the GNWT does business."