New Tuktoyaktuk road life-changing for Arctic community
A new, permanent road from Tuktoyaktuk, on the coast of the Beaufort Sea in the Northwest Territories, to Inuvik finally opens Wednesday.
It's been a long dream for people living in "Tuk," as it's known to locals, who have only the option of a plane or — in the winter — an ice road to get in and out of the community.
"I hardly slept during the night ... it's such an exciting day," says Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Darrel Nasogaluak of the official road opening.
"It's something we've been looking forward to for over 40 years."
It took four years of construction to make this $300-million road happen for the community. The highway, with a gravel surface from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk, is limited to the speed of 70 km/h.
Mayor Nasogaluak predicts this road will bring "quite a boom" to Tuk this summer with tourists travelling up the Dempster Highway and eventually making their way up to Tuktoyaktuk at the Arctic Oean.
He says this road will change a lot for the community.
"We've always had a winter road that normally opens mid-December until mid-April but this opens the access to the community year-round and it's quite something for us," Nasogaluak tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.
"Occasionally you'll see [stores] running out of certain things between the ice road and the barging season. So they'll be able to replenish their shelves of items that they run short of more regularly, and produce will be able to come in at a better price."
This new access means big savings to the community reducing the cost of living to about $1.5 million a year.
"It's a win-win. It's good for the community and it's good for Canada."
A new road into a community like Tuktoyaktuk also has its drawbacks, according to Mary Soderstrom, author of Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move.
She's travelled many such roads for her research — and says with access comes peril.
"One of the roads that I travelled to was a road in South America which had been talked about for years too, it ... essentially links the Atlantic and the Pacific across Peru and into Brazil," Soderstrom explains, adding it takes almost six days to take a bus across.
"I took one stretch of it a few years ago shortly after it opened, and the worry was that this was going to open up essentially drugs, alcohol, prostitution — all kinds of exploitation of resources which shouldn't be exploited."
Soderstrom says what she witnessed was that the road opened up to deforestation and mining.
"Once we got over the Andes and into the Amazon Valley, you could see where gold mining particularly, and some legal or illegal logging had taken place."
Listen to the full conversation above.
This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese.