First overland road project between Greenlandic towns | Polarjournal

Travelling overland in Greenland is a challenge in itself. Especially on the west coast, where the majority of the population lives, roads between the places do not exist. Long distances, difficult terrain and above all the climatic conditions allow the costs of construction and maintenance to shoot to horrendous heights. But now the local government of Qeqqata Kommunia wants to take a first step towards a solution and has approved the construction of a road link between Kangerlussuaq and Sismiut.

In mid-June, the administration of the municipality of Qeqqata, to which the two villages belong, signed a contract with the Danish company MT Højgaard for the planned construction. Construction of the first 21 kilometres from Kangerlussuaq towards Kangerluasuk Tulleq, the fjord north of Sisimiut, is scheduled to begin as early as this July. The construction company is no stranger to road construction: it was significantly involved in the construction of the Øresund- and the Little Belt-bridges. “MT Højgaard is looking forward to joining the start of the road between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. Hopefully the 21 km will only be a start, and we are ready to join all the way to Sisimiut.,” explains Managing Director Sune Bastrup of MT Højgaard. “We are now in the process of planning the start-up, which is scheduled to take place in the second half of July.”

The planned road is supposed to be a mixture of paved and gravel road and will not overlap with the well-known Arctic Circle Trail (dashed line). A total of 130 kilometres of land must be covered between the two villages. Photo: Michael Wenger

The project start was preceded by a lengthy planning phase and the project was not approved everywhere. The road route in particular was met with criticism, as it was feared that the well-known Arctic Circle Trail and the wilderness experience of hikers in general would be affected by the planned road. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out before the project was contracted. The assessment, carried out independently, concluded that the two routes were apart far enough not to affect each other. Nevertheless, the construction company has to take into account severe environmental requirements for the first 21 kilometres in order not to affect the fragile nature too much. In the end, the local government expects traffic to be close to 1,600 vehicles per year by 2030. This would mean a daily average of 35 vehicles and 15 ATVs during the high season, according to the assessment.

Many roads outside the villages in Greenland are simple gravel roads, which are cheaper to maintain. The new road link between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut is supposed to be a mixture of gravel and asphalt. Photo: Michael Wenger

Although only the first 21 kilometers are to be tackled from July, the administration is certain that the link between the two places will soon stand and will represent a boost to the economic performance of the region. “We are now getting started, and I am sure that it will be a big win for Qeqqata Kommunia and Greenland that the large land area between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut will become more accessible,” Malik Berthelsen, head of local government, wrote in a statement The total cost of the entire road will be an estimated € 67 million and the administration has calculated that around € 6.7 million per year will be contributed to the region through tourism and trade. However, as the costs have not yet been fully covered, it was decided to carry out the construction in stages. The first stage will link Kangerlussuaq to the Tasersuaq area, a region on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This would be another visitor attraction for tourists, besides the trip to the inland ice shield. “The road will provide new opportunities for the people and tourism of Kangerlussuaq, and when the road reaches Sisimiut many other opportunities will arise,” reassures Berthelsen. “I look forward to cycling on the road in the future,” he concludes.

Sismiut is the second largest town in Greenland and the capital of the municipality of Qeqqata. Although the town has its own airfield and Kangerlussuaq will have to share international air traffic with Nuuk and Ilulissat in the future, those responsible see the future quite bright, as both places should be able to benefit from the increasing cruise tourism. Photo: Michael Wenger

Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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