Today in Transportation History – 2014: A New All-Season Road Begins Construction in the Northwest Territories

Construction began on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH) – formally classified as Highway 10 – in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke ground on the new project, which was undertaken to provide a long-awaited all-season road connecting the town of Inuvik on the East Channel of the Mackenzie River delta with the community of Tuktoyaktuk on the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Harper took time during the Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony in Inuvik to commend the late John Diefenbaker, who served as Canada’s prime minister from 1957 to 1963, for using his time in office to become one of the first high-level officials to vigorously promote building such a road in the Northwest Territories. Harper asserted, “Prime Minister Diefenbaker knew then what our government is undertaking today: Constructing a highway will improve the lives of people living in the North for generations to come, facilitating economic development, creating jobs and enabling cost-effective, safe and reliable transportation of goods to and from northern communities.”

Construction of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway was widely seen as an opportunity to not only facilitate year-round travel within that part of the Northwest Territories but also create the final permanent section of Canada’s vast multi-coast road network connecting the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans. Two construction crews, one working from Inuvik and the other starting in Tuktoyaktuk, braved freezing temperatures and high winds around the clock to build the new highway. The crews finally met up with each other and jointly filled in the last section of the route on April 7, 2016. “It was pretty awesome,” one of the contractors involved in these construction efforts said in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News interview. “It’s nice to connect.”

The ITH was officially opened to traffic on November 15, 2017. The all-weather two-lane gravel road, which includes eight bridges and 359 culverts, covers approximately 86 miles (138 kilometers) between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. The Tuktoyaktuk Winter Road, which long served as a connection between both locations in more frigid temperatures and had operated on the frozen surfaces of the Mackenzie River delta channels and the Arctic Ocean, closed down once and for all just a few months before the ITH opened.

For more information on the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway (ITH), please check out and the 8 January 2014 Canadian Press article “Prime Minister Harper visit Inuvik; breaks ground on new road to coast” at

Photo courtesy of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Crews work on the Tuktoyaktuk end of the Inuvik to Tuk all-weather road. (James MacKenzie/Department of Transportation)

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