Designing Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway
In the face of a climatic warming evident in Canada’s northern territories, a reliable transportation system is the key to major contributions to Canada’s national economy through sustainable and efficient development of resources and through improved access to education, health care, and employment opportunities for Canada’s most vulnerable people.
The federal government has considered the vision of an all-weather highway through the valley and delta of the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Coast a strategic priority for Canada since the late 1950s. The highway is seen as the final link to connect Canada from coast to coast to coast. Construction of this highway (over 140 kilometers from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk) will provide a reliable transportation system for the people of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
Through an aboriginal joint venture partnership, Kiggiak-EBA Consulting Ltd., Tetra Tech has completed work with the Department of Transportation, Government of the Northwest Territories, the Town of Inuvik, the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, and a joint venture of aboriginal contractors, EGT Northwind Ltd., to design the highway and prepare the necessary documents for submission to regulators to gain approval for construction. This work has been underway since 2009, and the designs and documents produced were also used to lobby the federal government for the necessary funding for construction.
In March 2013, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway received environmental approval and funding approval from the federal and territorial governments. Tetra Tech has continued to work with EGT Northwind Ltd. as part of the design-build team for the project, completing detailed designs, conducting geotechnical investigations, and preparing construction specifications. Construction commenced in January 2014 and is expected to be complete by fall of 2017. Tetra Tech continues to play an important role in delivery of the highway by providing engineering expertise and quality control services to EGT Northwind Ltd. during the construction.
The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway traverses particularly challenging, ice-rich, thaw-sensitive permafrost terrain. The design and construction approach requires a movement away from traditional engineering practices in an effort to maintain the overall integrity of the roadway and drainage structures in the face of permafrost thaw due to climate change.
The preliminary engineering and design steps have incorporated ground temperature monitoring for baseline conditions; the use of ground-penetrating radar at select locations to confirm the presence of massive ice; ground thermal analysis to predict freeze/thaw in the embankment structure; slope stability analysis in frozen, but unstable, ground; and other techniques. The design and construction approach in general includes 100 percent fill (no cut) and an adaptive approach to risk management and climate change.