Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway open, but with weight restrictions

The Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway reopened on June 1, but with a 5,000-kilogram weight restriction.

$300M all-weather highway is open to traffic under 5,000 kilograms for now

Work underway on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway. The road is under a 5,000 kilogram load restriction. (Submitted by Michael Wieleba)

The Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway is open to vehicle traffic, but is under a 5,000-kilogram load restriction to protect the road from damage.

The N.W.T.'s newest highway faced intermittent closures earlier this spring — including for most of the month of May — because of muddy, slippery conditions. Travel was risky for drivers and could have damaged the new highway, leading to costly repairs.

Kevin McLeod, assistant deputy minister for the N.W.T. Department of Infrastructure, said the restrictions could be in place for up to three weeks.

The weight restriction precludes most heavy transport vehicles, such as tanker trucks, from travelling on the road. McLeod said the department would work with drivers on a case-by-case basis to ensure fuel, food and other essential goods make it to Tuktoyaktuk.

"If they have essential traffic that has to go through, we do a load calculation," McLeod said. "In 99 per cent of the cases, we escort them through at a slow speed."

Enforcement of the restriction is largely voluntary; there are no checkpoints set up to enforce the ban.

However, highway transport officers can pull over vehicles for inspection. Penalties for violating the load restriction or a road closure include fines of over $800 and driver's licence demerit points.

McLeod said it's important drivers obey highway travel restrictions as repairs to the damage caused by ignoring them can be expensive.

"If people can respect … the load restrictions, it won't damage [the road] to the point where we have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the deep ruts that it causes," McLeod said.

The Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway was closed due to muddy conditions for most of May. (Submitted by Michael Wieleba)

Expect annual restrictions or closures

McLeod said travellers and residents in the region should be prepared for annual spring highway closures or weight restrictions.

"It all depends on what kind of winter we had, how much snow is moving, how much rain we've had," he said. "It's a case-by-case scenario."

This summer, the department will complete work to sections of the road left incomplete last year, and fine-tune other sections where weaknesses may have turned up, such as relocating culverts.

More than 20 kilometres of road require a final coat of gravel. McLeod said conditions on the highway that caused road closures this spring were related to the general state of the highway, and not isolated to the unfinished sections.

Motorcycle accident Monday

A motorcycle accident on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway on Monday hospitalized one rider.

At approximately 10 a.m., four riders were on their way to Tuktoyaktuk. They were approximately 30 kilometres outside Inuvik when one rider in the group had a fall.

"The person was transported by ambulance to the hospital for treatment of what appears to be non-life threatening injuries," stated an RCMP spokesperson in an email.

McLeod said he couldn't speculate on whether road conditions had anything to do with the accident.