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Roller coaster roads to be reconstructed
Highway 3, Ingraham Trail, Dettah access road set to be upgraded after major federal funding announcement

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Friday, July 31, 2015

Highways and roads around Yellowknife are getting a major upgrade and officials with the territorial government are telling the driving public that any construction delays they encounter will be well worth the short wait.

NNSL photo/graphic

Construction crews prepare for blasting work along the Dettah access road on Wednesday. The federal and territorial governments announced on Monday that $96 million will be spent over the next four years to upgrade roads and highways in the NWT. That includes $6 million to reconstruct the road to Dettah. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

About $34 million will be spent on highway and road upgrades around the city over the next four years. The funding for the road work was announced at the legislative assembly on Monday by politicians from both the federal and territorial governments. The Yellowknife-area road work is part of a larger $96 million investment being made in road upgrades across the NWT.

The only corridor in and out of Yellowknife, Highway 3, will see an $8-million investment. It requires strengthening and drainage improvements from kilometre 224 to 332, between Yellowknife and Behchoko.

"There is lots of marshy ground on both sides, lots of water on both sides and rock, muskeg and permafrost that's settling," said Kevin McLeod, director of highways for the territorial Department of Transportation.

"The road is extra weight on the permafrost. The permafrost melts with climate change. Water will be one of our greatest enemies in terms of highway degradation.

Motorists will see delays on highway but they should not be too inconvenienced, said McLeod.

"We don't get that many vehicles on the road so we don't get backups of 40 minutes or so like they do when there is construction on the 401 (in Ontario). Folks will have zones where they have to slow down for a construction zone.

"They'll either be flagged around or they'll be escorted around or they'll just have to slow down and drive by it," McLeod said. "Most of the road is in good shape - it's these sections that roll. We won't close off a whole road. We'll close off a hundred metres at a time and deal with it that way. Any quality job is going to take some time."

McLeod said there is work already underway, crews are out on the highway and drivers should be aware of that.

"Give them space and slow down. There is no rush between here and Behchoko, they don't have to rush to make the ferry now. My advice is take your time and enjoy the drive," McLeod said. He pointed out that speeding fines double in construction zones for good reason.

"That came after a number of deaths and serious injuries caused by drivers speeding through construction zones. You've got to respect that the worker is trying to do their job," McLeod said.

Highway 4, the Ingraham Trail, will receive $4 million in upgrades including resurfacing, drainage improvement and chipseal on sections between kilometre 32 and 62, essentially between Prelude Lake and the Cameron Falls parking lot. Chipseal combines layers of asphalt with layers of fine gravel.

"We're making it better for the truck drivers who use the Ingraham Trail to access the road to the mines. But we also know that tourists, some hauling trailers, boats, snowmobiles, what have you, will be happier with a smoother ride," Olsen said.

Six million dollars will be spent to finish chipsealing the Dettah access road.

The other road upgrade that has implications for Yellowknife is what's referred to as the highway corridors project. It will examine options for extending the season for winter roads used to supply the diamond mines.

The goal is to eventually have all-weather roads to the mines that would not require any ice crossings.

McLeod said work is already underway on several NWT roads adding that the department has had an indication for some time now that the funding would be forthcoming.

"We only have a 109-day construction season from May to September. The pomp and ceremony of the funding announcement came on July 27 but we've been at it since May," McLeod said.

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