Canada and Yukon governments invest in research projects to address the impacts of climate change on northern transportation infrastructure

WHITEHORSE--Climate change affects the North more than any other part of Canada and threatens the efficiency, safety and reliability of northern transportation. Making our northern transportation system more resilient to the effects of climate is important given the key role transportation plays in the region’s social and economic development.

That is why the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon are investing in two important climate change adaptation research projects under the Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative.

1) The first project is for the design and construction of an adaptation technique to stabilize permafrost thaw at Dry Creek (km 1841) on the Alaska Highway. Devices which transfer cold surface air into the permafrost, known as thermosyphons, were developed to reduce permafrost thaw and improve highway performance by cooling the ground beneath the embankment. Ground temperature cables will be installed to monitor the effectiveness of the thermosyphons and provide future research opportunities.

If proven successful, the use of thermosyphons will:

  • reduce road maintenance costs
  • prolong service life of highways
  • make transportation more efficient

Over the next three years, Transport Canada is providing up to $1 million for this project. Yukon Highways and Public Works is providing $1.3 million, for a total cost of $2.3 million.

2) The second project will study climate change adaptation and impacts along the northern highways. It will research the impact of climate change on northern transportation infrastructure, with a focus on sections of the Dempster Highway in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, as well as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway. The study is a collaboration between the Yukon and Northwest Territories governments, Yukon College's Northern Climate ExChange, and Carleton University’s Northern Studies graduate program.

This project will have three phases. The first phase will assess how climate change affects the cost of maintaining northern highways. The second phase will study how the environmental impacts linked with climate change can result in hazardous road conditions. In the third phase, the research team will share their results also develop training materials for managing our northern roads and highways in a changing climate. This project will be completed in March 2021.

Over four years, Transport Canada is providing up to $980,850 for this project. Yukon Highways and Public Works is providing $326,950, for a total cost of $1.3 million.

These projects will build on previous climate change research, contribute to solving current problems, and provide concrete solutions to climate change impacts on northern transportation systems.



“A safe, secure and efficient transportation system is crucial to the well-being and viability of our northern communities. We are committed to the development of Canada’s northern transportation system. The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative helps us understand the effects of climate change in the North. I am pleased to support these two important projects in the North, which will build our knowledge about how to manage northern transportation assets in the face of a changing climate.”

The Honourable Marc Garneau
Minister of Transport

“Canada’s climate is changing and our communities are feeling the impact. Climate change affects the North more than any other part of Canada. Today’s funding announcement will develop our northern science knowledge and capacity. These projects will help us make sound decisions about how to effectively manage our transportation systems and support reliable access to communities across the North. I’m looking forward to seeing the adaptation solutions these projects will yield so we can keep building stronger and healthier northern communities.”

Larry Bagnell
Member of Parliament for Yukon

“Climate change has real effects on our northern highways and infrastructure. We welcome this federal investment in research and innovation on the Alaska and Dempster Highways. Coupled with our territorial contribution, it will help us adapt to the ravages of climate change.”

Richard Mostyn
Minister of Highways and Public Works

Quick facts

  • Transport Canada’s Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of northerners to adapt their transportation systems to climate change, through support for research, development and testing of adaptive technologies.

  • The Northern Transportation Adaptation Initiative provides funding to help meet some of the challenges of climate change in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and communities in Nunavik and Northern Labrador.

  • Northern highways are particularly susceptible to climate change impacts and adaptive strategies are needed to deal with the increasing number of hazards emerging across Canada’s northern transportation corridors.

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