Despite spring closures, N.W.T. government stands behind Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway
Road closed most of May, only open half-days for parts of April due to slippery, swampy, conditions
The Northwest Territories government stands by its decision to open the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway before it was finished last fall, even though unfinished sections are why the road's been closed for much of this spring, says Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann.
The highway was closed to traffic May 12 and has yet to reopen due to slippery, swampy conditions. Before that, it had only been open between midnight and noon for two weeks in April.
The road has been closed because a section of road was not laid with gravel and compacted before it became too cold to finish the work last fall, Schumann said.
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Schumann faced questions about the closures Thursday in the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly from MLA Herb Nakimayak, who represents Tuktoyaktuk and other northern communities in the legislature.
"We opened the highway based on substantial completion last year, based on inspections we deemed it safe to standards to open to the general public — which we did." Schumann said in an interview with CBC.
The $300-million highway opened with significant fanfare in the communities in November. The grand opening included a ceremonial drive with federal and territorial officials and Julie Payette made it part of her itinerary for her first trip North as Governor General.
45 more days of road access for Tuk, minister says
About 60 to 70 vehicles travelled the road each day before the closures and the all-weather highway gave the community access to a road 45 days more this winter than when the former ice road was used, Schumann said.
"We continue to stand by when we opened... the road," Schumann said. "The other option was to open the ice road again at a significant cost to taxpayers in the Northwest Territories."
The highway is newly-built in the "harshest environment in Canada" Schumann said, and the government is satisfied with the work done by the contractors up to this point.
But residents travelling between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk have said trips have taken hours longer than normal and they feared being stuck in pools of mud.
Most people in Tuktoyaktuk generally understand why the swampy conditions persist, Nakimayak said, adding some had used quads or other ATVs when travelling the highway.
Officials with the Infrastructure Department and work crews are working on the highway to make it safe to travel again, Schumann said, and it could reopen as early as May 29 if the weather permits it.