Gravel portion of Highway 5 set to be chipsealed in two years

NNSL file photo A truck carries gravel for work on Highway 5 about 60 kilometres west of Fort Smith, during the last significant improvements to the route in 2010. That work was outside the boundaries of Wood Buffalo National Park.

NNSL file photo
A truck carries gravel for work on Highway 5 about 60 kilometres west of Fort Smith, during the last significant improvements to the route in 2010. That work was outside the boundaries of Wood Buffalo National Park.

The last section of gravel road on Highway 5 is going to be chipsealed.

The plans for the 64 km of the highway – a section that runs through Wood Buffalo National Park – were announced in Yellowknife on July 12 by federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, who is also responsible for Parks Canada.

As part of this year’s federal budget, $21.6 million is being invested into Highway 5 for the chipsealing.

As the only all-season road traversing Wood Buffalo National Park and connecting the communities of Fort Smith and Hay River, Parks Canada says the investment will result in an improved level of service for the essential regional transportation corridor.

The expected completion date for the project is spring 2018.

It will focus on the stretch of highway between kilometre 106 and kilometre 174.

Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes welcomes the project as good for his community.

“Definitely it will help Hay River,” he told The Hub. “We’re just one big family of communities.”

Mapes said a fully-chipsealed road will encouraged more tourists to travel to Fort Smith, noting some people won’t drive on gravel roads.

“It gives them an opportunity to travel there, and while they’re going to Smith, they take part in our community,” he said. “What’s good for Fort Smith is going to be good for Hay River, too.”

Plus, Mapes said a chipsealed highway will make travel safer between Hay River and Fort Smith.

“We’re supportive of the Fort Smith community,” he said. “It’s a lot of benefit to them but it’s a benefit throughout the whole region.”

In all, McKenna announced $23.8 million for various projects for Parks Canada in the NWT, including at the Pingo Canadian Landmark, just outside of Tuktoyaktuk, and to modernize satellite communications in all national parks in the NWT.

In Wood Buffalo National Park, there will be $920,000 spent to correct structural deficiencies on the Salt River Bridge located on the Peace Point Road. That work will extend the service life of the structure for another 40 years.

In addition, $487,000 will be spent to rehabilitate the park’s trail system.

Today’s investments will provide Canadians with more opportunities to learn about and experience the diverse cultures and landscapes of the North, help improve the quality of life of our middle class, as well as support the economic development and tourism sector in local Northern communities,” stated McKenna in a July 12 news release.

Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park. It is the site of the last natural nesting habitat of the endangered whooping crane and is home to the world’s largest free-roaming herd of bison.

It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Paul Bickford