The proposed all-season road that could connect James Bay coastal communities to the Highway 11 corridor is currently in the feasibility study stage.
Mushkegowuk Council is reviewing the final draft of the feasibility study, said Mushkegowuk Council’s director of technical services, Ryan Small.
"This was supposed to be done in March, but based on COVID-19, it's been delayed ever since," he said. “It is being reviewed internally at Mushkegowuk Council … once it’s accepted by the chiefs, the information would be final.”
The project has been in the works for several years. As coastal communities can only travel to the south by air or rail, having an all-season road could provide easier access to services.
“I guess there would be both pros and cons, but in terms of any benefits, there would be possible health and education benefits,” Small said. “Just access to better health care.”
The most supported proposed inland route runs from Moosonee to Fraserdale, following the Ontario Northland Railway line. The estimated total road distance would be about 560 kilometres and also connect Moosonee, Fort Albany, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat.
Information sessions were held in the northern communities as well as with Taykwa Tagamou First Nation, and there’s been a “general support” for the road from the communities, Small noted.
Once the draft is reviewed, the next step would be meeting with the Council of Chiefs to present the final report along with the consultants from Morrison Hershfield.
"Once the report is presented, we’ll get further direction from the Council of Chiefs in terms of next steps," Small said. "There's still lots of work to do in terms of what the next steps are. Right now, we're wrapping up the feasibility phase. We don't know when or if this will ever be built."
The funding for the feasibility study was received from Indigenous Services Canada, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and FedNor.
"We've had some funding challenges," Small said. "We don't have any money at all for any capital cost at the moment ... that's something to have to be looked at in terms of where the funding is going to come from for this major project. And if the project is going to move forward, we don't know that yet."