Chipsealing Highway 5

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
On Aug. 9, a sweeper cleans the surface of a newly-chipsealed section of Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park.

Chipsealing is rolling through the final 64 kilometre gravel stretch of Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park.

In fact, as of Aug. 11, chipseal has already covered much of that stretch of highway.

“At this point, we hope it will be completed in September, but weather will begin to play a factor in the work,” said Tim Gauthier, a spokesperson for Parks Canada, in answers to e-mailed questions from The Hub. “If the cold comes quickly this fall, then some work may have to be delayed until next spring. This is not a factor within our control or the control of the contractors, who are all working hard to meet deadlines.”

Motorists can expect to encounter roadwork well into September, he said.

“The work is being carried out in stages on different parts of the highway,” said Gauthier. “The area between kilometre 106 and 136 has a coat of chip seal down and they are sweeping the area in preparation for the final coat. Between kilometre 136 and 170, they are still working on culvert replacement.”

Parks Canada is investing $30 million in Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park over a two-year period. This began in 2016 to chipseal the remaining gravel section. The project has gone smoothly. “There have been some challenges getting equipment across the Buffalo River bridge due to work being done on that bridge, but we are working closely with the GNWT Department of Transportation and their contractors to address logistical challenges,” said Gauthier. And it looks like this project hasn’t held back visitation.

“To date, visitation has been up 18 per cent compared to last year. We have added a number of new visitor experiences that have attracted quite a few visitors this year, such as our new rental cabins at Pine Lake,” said Gauthier.

Parks Canada is looking forward to the completed project making it easier for visitors to access the natural and cultural wonders of Wood Buffalo National Park.

“We want to share this beautiful park with as many people as we can, so making the drive easier is a good thing,” said Gauthier. “But this is more than a route to the park, it is an important transportation and supply route for the community of Fort Smith, and we are pleased to have played a role in improving this important transportation corridor.”