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Arctic village residents share hopes, fears for future with opening of new highway

Arctic village residents share hopes, fears for future with opening of new highway
From CTV - October 12, 2017

Eileen Jacobson was born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.

At 60 years old, she works as a tour guide and one of only two taxi drivers in the tiny hamlet of approximately 900.

Nestled on the shores of the Arctic Ocean with unforgiving temperatures that dip below 40 C in the winter, the community is isolated from the rest of the country. The only way to access Tuktoyaktuk is by boat, bush plane or winter ice road.

It is tough to live up here, Jacobson said.

There are only two stores in Tuktoyaktuk and, because of its remote location, transporting goods, such as groceries from the south, is a difficult undertaking. As such, the cost of living can be incredibly high for the hamlets residents. For example, the price for a bag of apples can be as much as $20.

People in Tuk hope highway will make it easier to transport supplies and ultimately reduce food prices.Bag of apples can cost 20 dollars pic.twitter.com/3uWBnxIQC5

Melanie Nagy (@MelanieNagyCTV) October 12, 2017

But change is on the horizon. The only home Jacobson has ever known is about to be opened up to the outside world.

IN PICTURES: Preview of Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway

The near-completion of an all-season road stretching south across the Arctic tundra from Tuktoyaktuk to the Town of Inuvik brings with it optimism for future economic prosperity as well as concern for whats to come.

The new 137-kilometre Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway is expected to officially open on Nov. 15, after almost four years of construction.

CTV News Melanie Nagy was given exclusive access to preview the $299 million road and speak with locals about their hopes and fears for the project.

With the road opening, a lot of people will be coming in, Jacobson said. Maybe more tourism will come year-round and hopefully the grocery prices go down, price of gas, everything might go down.

The prospect of increased tourism, particularly in the summer, is appealing for Jacobsons work as a tour guide and taxi driver.

She hopes the easier access provided by the road will attract visitors to the area and boost the economy. And shes not alone.

James Pokiak runs a B&B in Tuktoyaktuk with his wife. Before opening his business, he made a living as a hunter in the region. With the opening of the new road, Pokiak anticipates progress and potential job growth.

I think its an opportunity for lots of people, he said. I think its going to be good.

On a personal level, the increased tourism may mean more bookings for his B&B, which he has already started expanding.

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