Knowledge CentreTechnical ProjectsScoping Study: Updated TAC Guidance on Roads in Permafrost Regions

Scoping Study: Updated TAC Guidance on Roads in Permafrost Regions


Economic development and quality of life in Canada’s vulnerable Northern communities depend on a reliable surface transportation system, much of which is built on ground that is perennially or seasonally frozen. However, road planning, design, construction and maintenance practices are often poorly adapted to permafrost conditions, and climate change is adding performance risk.

TAC’s Guidelines for Development and Management of Transportation Infrastructure in Permafrost Regions (2010) addresses planning considerations, route investigation, embankment and paving materials, drainage and erosion control, construction, maintenance and emerging technologies for roads in regions of northern Canada with permafrost terrain. It was intended to be:

  • A practical guide for anyone directly involved in the life cycle of infrastructure in northern Canada
  • A day-to-day tool for project managers, engineers and maintenance personnel
  • A general reference for senior managers on challenges related to road infrastructure in permafrost regions

Since 2010, the governments of Yukon and Northwest Territories have conducted field research projects on road construction tools and techniques in permafrost zones. They have also experienced a decline in the potential for winter roads, which highlights the need for guidance on road construction in discontinuous vs. continuous permafrost zones.

While the structure of TAC’s 2010 report remains relevant and comprehensive, it is out of date in several respects including the subject matter in Chapters 4 through 9 (Embankment and Pavement Materials; Engineering Considerations; Drainage and Erosion Control; Construction; Maintenance; Emerging Technologies). It may also require a new chapter on recommended additional work.


This project will research and recommend the scope of a subsequent update to TAC’s Guidelines for Development and Management of Transportation Infrastructure in Permafrost Regions (2010). This two-phase approach has been successfully used by TAC on other major publications.

For each chapter in the 2010 guide, the project will identify:

  • Technical topics for which guidance is either outdated or absent
  • Available information that could underlie new guidance on those topics
  • Areas where additional research may be required before updated guidance may be developed

The project will also recommend any changes to the guide’s structure (e.g. new chapters) and a methodology and budget for a consulting assignment to update the 2010 guide.

Key project tasks will likely include:

  • A review of relevant international guidance and academic literature including:
    • “Adaptation of Transportation Infrastructure in Permafrost Regions: Synthesis of Knowledge” (MORR Transportation Consulting, 2019) for the former Northern Infrastructure in the Presence of Climate Change (NICC) working group of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety
    • CSA PLUS 4011:19, Technical Guide: Infrastructure in Permafrost: A Guideline for Climate Change Adaptation (CSA Group, 2019)
  • A survey of Canadian jurisdictions to identify challenges, opportunities, effective practices, and findings of recent research initiatives
  • Interviews with experts and a sample of guide users
  • A section-by-section assessment of the 2010 guide, with recommended actions to update it
  • Development of a final scoping report summarizing the work conducted, information gathered, key findings and recommendations

Focus Area:Infrastructure and Asset Management

Project Summary

In Development
Last Updated:
July, 2024
Responsible Council / Committee:
Infrastructure & Asset Management Council / Northern Transportation Infrastructure Working Group
Expected Duration:
12 months
Total Funding Estimate:
Staff Contact:Geoff Noxon