The benefits of a proposed new Greenland road justify its costs — and then some — an outside review finds

Tourism would benefit most from the road, but it would also be associated with more investment opportunity and a lower cost of living.

By Kevin McGwin - September 27, 2021
An artist’s conception shows how the road would appear in the landscape. (Qeqqata Kommunia)

A proposed road that would be the first to connect two settlements in Greenland appears to be a sound investment — so sound that it would still be worth building even if the price of completing it were three times higher than the current estimate.

That is the conclusion of a study conducted by consulting firm Oxford Global Projects on behalf of Naalakkersuisut, Greenland’s government, and the Qeqqeta local council, who would split the estimated 500 million kroner ($79 million) cost of building the road.

The benefits of the 170 kilometer gravel road between Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq would come mainly in the form of increased tourism, according to Oxford Global Projects, but would also be associated with more investment opportunity, a lower cost of living for the 500 residents of Kangerlussuaq and improved opportunities to conduct scientific research in the area.

“The benefits of the Arctic Circle Road would likely justify its costs, even given the most conservative estimates,” the report states.

The road would run in an east-west direction between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut (Qeqqata Kommunia)

Oxford Global Projects based its conclusion on studies of comparable road projects, including the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway in Canada, as well as interviews with residents and firms who could be expected to be affected by construction of the road,

Sisimiut has Greenland’s largest population after Nuuk, and Kangerlussuaq is the currently the site of its international airport. That will change after upgrades to two other airports that render it redundant. It will remain open, however, and it is this combination, according to Oxford Global Projects, that makes the road a good investment.

“Investors were largely positive about the prospect of building a road, because they felt it would open up the entire region to tourism,” the report said.

[Greenland’s first road project connecting settlements clears its last hurdle]

Residents were also positive about the road and its potential economic benefit, in particular for Kangerlussuaq. Many, according to Oxford Global Projects, expressed concern about construction and maintenance costs, as well as the potential environmental impact.

Oxford Global Projects now recommends that Naalakkersuisut and Qeqqata officials draw up a detailed plan for building the road and provide a revised cost estimate ahead of making a final decision about whether to proceed with construction.

A road linking Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq has been mooted since the 1950s. Qeqqata is currently building a 25 million kroner ATV path running through the same area that will serve as a precursor for a gravel road.