N.W.T. now plans Mackenzie Valley Highway in 'phases'

Tom Beaulieu, Minister of Transportation, says the department still plans to extend the road to the Dempster Highway, but wants to focus on constructing one portion of the highway at a time.

$700-million portion of all-season road to extend from Wrigley to Norman Wells

The N.W.T. government is scaling back on its plans for an all-season road along the Mackenzie Valley — at least for now.

The initial proposed project had the highway extend from Wrigley, where it currently ends, north to Tulita, Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope and connect to the Dempster Highway.

The revised Mackenzie Valley Highway project will be done in phases, starting with a $700-million, 333-kilometre leg from Wrigley to Norman Wells. (CBC)

Tom Beaulieu, Minister of Transportation, says that's still the plan, but the department wants to construct the highway in phases, focusing on one portion of the highway at a time. 

"We're concentrating from Wrigley to Norman Wells just because …​ we're not sure about the size of the ask to the federal government," Beaulieu said.

The department wants the federal government to fund the first portion of the highway, an estimated $700 million, through its national infrastructure program. 

Norman Yakeleya, the MLA for the Sahtu region, says the highway will get built, the question is when. 

"You know, we've been waiting since the 70s — what's a few more years?

"We have a high rate of graduates in the Sahtu ready to work. We have a high rate of youth in our region read to work."

The 333-kilometre leg from Wrigley to Norman Wells, which would be the first of three phases for the project, would follow the Sahtu winter road alignment

Beaulieu says the design and planning for the highway could begin next year, but that's after the department gets the funding for the it needs, and the project undergoes an environmental assessment. 

"It would be a couple years before we actually get into the construction of it," Beaulieu said.