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Inflation means NWT will scale back chipsealing work

Crews prepare to chipseal roads in Fort Simpson
Crews prepare to chipseal roads in Fort Simpson as part of a village project in 2020. Photo courtesy of Sean Whelly

Fewer kilometres of NWT highway will be chipsealed this construction season because of inflation’s effect on costs, the minister responsible says.

Diane Archie said in the legislature on Wednesday that the territory previously targeted 200 km of chipsealing work each year, but that goal recently shifted down to 150 km.

“Because of inflation, we’ve had to reduce the number of chipseal [projects] we’re doing,” infrastructure minister Archie said in response to questions from Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly.

Chipsealing a road involves combining asphalt and aggregate to create a surface that is a little more durable, less dusty, and less cracked than it would otherwise be. While it’s not considered the gold standard in road maintenance, it’s a reasonably cheap and cost-effective way to improve isolated highways.



O’Reilly said a reduction in chipsealing because of cost pressures concerned him.

Describing trips along NWT highways with his wife, O’Reilly said the Liard Highway had been in “terrible condition” and Highway 1 around the Sambaa Deh campground had been “unbelievable” to drive over.

“We almost went off the road when we were going out there for a committee meeting,” he said.

“We can’t even maintain the roads we’ve got, let alone build new ones anywhere. How are we going to make sure our residents are safe, and try to attract tourists, when our roads are in really bad condition?”



Archie insisted work was still going ahead.

“Every year, we do a little bit of work on each of our highways. The member mentioned that Highway 7 was bad, the Liard Highway. This year we’re looking at rehabilitation work, embankment widening. So I mean, this is something that we are doing,” the minister said, adding that work on Highway 7 should be complete by this August.

“That’s just one specific highway,” she said. “That’s one example. But we are doing work on the other highways, as well.”