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No more gravel section on Hwy 5 through park

As of Sept. 15, the final section of gravel on Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park has been covered by chipseal.

Bank stabilization and sweeping – such as this sweeper cleaning the road surface on Aug. 9 – is continuing on a newly-chipsealed section of Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park. NNSL file photo

"There are no longer any gravel stretches on the highway between Hay River and Fort Smith," said Tim Gauthier, a spokesperson for Parks Canada.

In a two-year project, Parks Canada spent $28 million to upgrade and chipseal the 63 km of gravel road through Wood Buffalo.

"The first layer of chipseal is down everywhere along the 63 km of the highway," explained Gauthier. "Now usually in the NWT we do one layer of chipseal, but for this project they're doing two full layers. So the entire area is chipsealed right now. We're going to put down a second layer. Whether that will happen over the next week or so, or next spring, is a question of weather. If it gets too cold over the next week to lay down chipseal, then they'll do it next spring."

Chipsealing can't take place once the temperature falls below six or seven degrees Celsius.

Some of the 63-km stretch of highway already has two layers of chipseal.

Gauthier cautioned motorists that there is still work going on along the highway, aside from the second layer of chipsealing.

"There is still some work being done in terms of sweeping off some areas of the highway to get rid of some of the loose gravel that they're laying down, and they're doing some bank stabilization as well on either side of the highway," he said. "So there'll still be areas where drivers will encounter crews working and there are going to be 50 kph signs. We encourage people to obey all posted speed limits and watch for crews and equipment working."

Gauthier said Parks Canada is hoping the chipsealing project will encourage more Canadians to visit Wood Buffalo National Park.

"We're really pleased that more Canadians are going to be able to visit Wood Buffalo to enjoy the drive through the park and basically discover all the wonders that Wood Buffalo has to offer," he said.

Mayor Brad Mapes welcomes the improvement of the road connection between Hay River and Fort Smith.

"It's to our benefit to have the roadways better so that people can visit our community and can visit their community," he said. "At the end of the day, the more we make our roads better and safer, that's the key."