The major Whitehorse roadway closed by last month’s landslide could reopen Monday if conditions remain favourable.
The portion of Robert Service Way between the Fourth Avenue roundabout and the Robert Service Campground has been closed since the April 8 slide. Nearby trails also remain closed. The City of Whitehorse has provided regular updates on the condition of the area and the plan to use an excavator to dislodge some concerning areas from the escarpment above the roadway in order to make it safe for motorists.
Whitehorse’s Mayor Laura Cabott and Tracy Allen, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations, were on hand May 11 to speak about the latest project update and plans to reopen the road early next week. The mayor said a final determination about reopening the road would be made on Sunday but conditions have been encouraging with much less moisture seeping from that portion of the escarpment and less material sloughing off the face above the road.
Plans have also been made to use some of the material brought down from the escarpment to build berms and barriers between it and the roadway.
Allen said work with the excavator at the top of the escarpment had to stop for operator safety due to stability concerns with a silty layer of soil that the excavation reached. Despite this, Allen said roughly 4,000 cubic metres of earth was removed from the escarpment. Between the removal of material from the escarpment and the berms that are being built, the city is confident the road will be safe to use if conditions don’t change.
The plan the mayor presented on May 11 was for temporary openings of the road from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the hours that the city’s geotechnical staff can easily monitor the escarpment for changes. Both lanes of traffic will be open but Allen said the speed limit for the area may be reduced due to changed traffic patterns.
Trails in the area of the escarpment, including the portion of the Millennium Trail that runs parallel to Robert Service Way, will remain closed. Cabott said the changes to transit routes made in response to the landslide closure will also remain in place.
Once a final decision on the May 15 reopening of the road has been made, information about it will be on signage and will also go out via the city’s social media channels and the Engage Whitehorse webpage.
Full opening of the road without constant monitoring is unlikely to happen until the end of freshet. Allen said last year the road wasn’t fully reopened until two weeks had passed with no signs of slope movement picked up by survey equipment.
“We tend to still want to be a bit cautious for safety of residents,” she said.
The mayor noted that the softball diamonds on Robert Service Way remain open whether the road is open or closed and encouraged their use. She said that the Robert Service Campground, which underwent significant upgrades in recent months, is set to reopen May 18.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org