A few weeks ago, I mentioned to an acquaintance that I was looking forward to visiting Tuktoyaktuk this summer because I want to see the Arctic Ocean in the summertime.
They immediately informed me that I wouldn’t be able to drive there on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH), and that I’d have to find my way onto a chartered flight instead.
I asked why, and they told me with certainty that the highway would be closed for the entirety of the summer.
I was confused, and they told me that it was going to be undergoing construction, so it wouldn’t be usable.
Given that I’m still pretty new to town, and this person is a long-time resident, I made a note of the comment.
A little more research tells me that this isn’t true at all. While the road may be closed for maintenance when it is needed, at least one of the lanes will remain open wherever possible to allow traffic to move between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
Since that initial conversation about the road, I’ve had multiple conversations with people – just typical residents of Inuvik – who are absolutely sure that the road will be closed for much of the summer, and all of those tourists who are going to be flocking to the Arctic to drive on the new highway will be very disappointed.
When I spoke with the people who built and maintain the highway, though, I learned that what I’ve been hearing are most likely just rumours and speculation.
One of the engineers who designed the highway explained how the road was built to last in the continuous permafrost environment. Given the project’s $300 million price tag, I only assumed – and hoped – designers and builders would have taken the road’s climate into consideration.
That same engineer also pointed out that no one really knows with 100 per cent certainty what will happen when the road is being used this summer.
Speculating and making assumptions will not change whether the road stays open or not. A road of this design and length has never been built in Canada, so I think we should just wait and see what happens when it begins being used this summer.
Let’s not panic and assume the sky is falling – or that the road is crumbling – before we actually see how the ITH holds up to this summer’s traffic.