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An historic connection
North and south ends of Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway meet

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Thursday, April 14, 2016

Last week marked an important moment in the construction of the historic Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway, when the two ends of the road finally met.

NNSL photo

Kurt Wainman, left, and Merven Gruben celebrate atop a pile of aggregate where the two sections of the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway join April 7. - photo courtesy of Merven Gruben

"It's exciting, of course," said Kurt Wainman of Northwind Industries. "I wish I could go on building roads this size forever."

On April 7, two dump trucks carrying aggregate dumped their loads back to back and officially connected the south and north ends of the highway. It was an impressive moment, but one Merven Gruben, Wainman's counterpart from Tuktoyaktuk, said had to be repeated an hour later when the representatives from the GNWT showed up.

"It's really significant to see that connection happen, coast to coast to coast," Gruben said. "I've never even been on (the south) side of the road. It's so beautiful."

Wainman said that although there is still work to be done over the next year and a half, the pace should be less intense than this past construction season where crews completed about 32 kilometres of roadway construction.

"We pushed hard this season, despite starting six weeks later," he said. "And we'll keep pushing as long as the weather holds."

Wainman said he's already looking for the next big project for the region - something that will employ all the trained truck drivers and other labourers now working on the highway - but clarifies that the road is significant for all of Canada as well.

"This construction project exemplifies the 18th Legislative Assembly's priority to invest in NWT transportation infrastructure and workforce development," said Transportation Minister Wally Schumann in a release issued April 8. "We are pleased with the contractor's progress and achievements in training and employing local residents to construct a highway under difficult conditions, unlike any other project in Canada."

Although the connection was made April 7 when the embankment was joined, further work to put in place geotextile fabric and additional earthworks should be completed before the end of the month. The release from the GNWT and Government of Canada called the project important to the region's economic growth, as well as one that will reduce the cost of getting to offshore oil and gas deposits in the North.

"With the economy, environment, and climate change among the priorities identified by the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Government of the Northwest Territories is pleased to highlight the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway construction project as one-of-a-kind highway initiative engineered to protect the region's continuous permafrost environment by adapting innovative construction methods," said Schumann.

Now in its third season of construction, the highway is set to be completed and open to traffic in the fall of 2017.

"The Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway is an essential component of Northern transportation infrastructure," said federal minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi in a release.

"Not only will it create jobs and economic benefits for Northerners but it

will connect communities, support the transportation of goods, and increase the potential for economic development in the Northwest Territories.

"By working with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners, we are meeting Canadians' needs and positioning Canada's economy for the future."

Wainman said seeing the road near completion was bittersweet.

"Sure there have been some challenges along the way, but if it were easy, everyone would do this," he said. "Seeing the end is near is nice, it's good to accomplish goals and complete projects, but it's almost sad too."

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