A ceremony was held in Whatì on August 24th to celebrate the commencement of construction of the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season Road. The GNWT is working in partnership with the Tłı̨chǫ and federal governments to develop the road.
The 97-kilometre, two-lane gravel highway will replace the existing winter ice road to Whatì and provide a more reliable all-season connection to the Territorial highway system. Construction of the Tłı̨chǫ Road is expected to commence in September.
Wally Schumann, Minister of Infrastructure and Industry, Tourism and Investment, stated that the road will result in significant employment and training opportunities for Tłı̨chǫ residents, supporting the development of a strong northern workforce.
“This 97-kilometre road will bring many positive benefits to residents of the Tłı̨chǫ region and residents across the NWT for generations to come. Our government will continue to advance strategic infrastructure projects across the Northwest Territories.”
Currently, Whatì is a fly-in community except for the months it is accessible by winter road. The GNWT stated in a release that replacing the winter road to Whatì with an all-season road will make the highway system more resilient to the impacts of climate change and could increase the window-of-access to winter roads serving Gamètì and Wekweètì.
François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities noted that the All-Season Road will significantly improve the lives of local residents.
“The all-weather road will provide the people of Whatì with year-round access to more touristic and employment opportunities in the south as well as the ability to purchase goods and services at much lower prices.”
Once complete, the road is expected to reduce the cost of living for the region and will support intercommunity mobility, improved access to health care, tourism opportunities, and resource exploration and development.
The Government of Canada is providing up to 25 percent of the $213.8 million construction costs and the GNWT is funding the remaining 75 percent.
North Star was selected in November 2018 to design, finance, construct, operate and maintain the Tlicho Road over a 28-year period for a total contract value of $411.8 million. The Tłı̨chǫ Government has invested approximately $16 million to purchase a 20 percent equity interest in North Star.
Chief Alfonz Nitsiza, Whatì, Tłı̨chǫ Government, stated that elders of the community have talked about the need for an all-season road to the community of Whatì for many many years, and today, it becomes a reality.
“Today is an exciting day for the community of Whatì and the whole Tłı̨chǫ region. We have been involved in all phases of the development of this road, and are now a true partner through our equity investment in construction and operations. We know that this road will bring both impacts and benefits to the community, and we have been preparing for both.”
The 97-kilometre gravel road will officially open to the public in 2022.