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Mackenzie road plan pushed

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 02/05) - The territorial government threw an $862 million transportation wish list into the federal election campaign.

Transportation minister Michael McLeod wants Ottawa to guarantee loans for a $700 million all-weather road through the Mackenzie Valley.

"It's a project whose time has come," McLeod said as he unveiled the proposals at a conference in Yellowknife.

McLeod said the Mackenzie highway would be financed by federal government loan guarantees and possibly a $500 per load toll on commercial vehicles.

The toll would generate as much as $5 million a year of the estimated $40 million annual operating and maintenance costs for the Mackenzie highway.

The territorial government is also seeking an additional $162 million for improvements to existing highways and airports.

It includes improvements to the Ingraham Trail ($24.2 million), Dempster ($28 million), Liard, and Mackenzie highways ($26.4 million); the Tuktoyaktuk ($15 million), Mackenzie ($10 million), Tlicho ($12.2 million) and Trout Lake ($2 million) winter roads and improvements to access to Nahanni Butte and Jean-Marie River ($4 million).

Also marked for improvement are Highways 5 and 6 between Hay River, Fort Resolution and Fort Smith ($12 million) and new or improved airports in Colville Lake, ($5.6 million) Nahanni Butte, ($4.4 million) Trout Lake ($5.3 million) and Fort Good Hope ($1.8 million).

David Codzi works with the Ayoni Keh Land Corp., in Colville Lake and said the community needs a new airport.

"The airport we have now has got to be below Canadian safety standards," said Codzi.

For people in Tuktoyaktuk, the new permanent road would be the answer to an old dream.

Deputy mayor Merven Gruben was pleased to hear the government elaborate on its plans for the year-round road link to the south.

Gruben said that once Tuktoyaktuk has access to a nearby gravel deposit, work can also be done to the existing roads in the community.

McLeod said he hoped the road improvement projects could be complete by 2008, but offered no firm timeline.

McLeod said he hopes to present the Mackenzie highway proposal to the federal government early next year.