Whitehorse residents can expect a new look at Fourth Avenue and Main Street this summer as new signals are installed that will bring some changes to the corner sidewalks.
Whitehorse city council voted April 25 to move ahead with the procurement on the contract to install the new lights and rebuild the sidewalks on the corner.
The current lights were among the first traffic signals to be installed in Whitehorse in 1979. While they’ve been updated through the years, they’re now deemed to be at the end of their useful life and need to be replaced, city administration stated in an earlier report to council.
As city engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter told council at its April 19 meeting, to install the bases for the new light poles, the sidewalk at each corner will be disturbed, creating an opportunity to rebuild the corners so they are more pedestrian-friendly, reduce crossing distances and improve sight lines for drivers.
The design will see extended bulb-outs at each corner, with the new signals to feature wireless push buttons. The lights will be activated by side street traffic.
A number of council members had voiced their support earlier for making the light system as user-friendly as possible with audible and visual signals that provide a countdown for those crossing the intersection.
Before joining with the rest of council in voting in favour of moving ahead with procurement, Coun. Mellisa Murray said council has since learned the signals have already been purchased and while they will feature an audio countdown, they will not have the visual countdown.
She said she hopes when new lights are being installed around the city in the future, the city will consider signals that feature the visual countdown as well as the audio.
Tracy Allen, the city’s director of operations, confirmed that could be reviewed and looked at.
Meanwhile, Coun. Kirk Cameron highlighted his concern for the protection of pieces showcasing the territory’s history on the corners of the intersection — a plaque for the United Keno Hill Mines and busts featuring the likes of Edith Josie (who was a Vuntut Gwitchin writer), Jack London (who wrote The Call of The Wild among other books that brought the Yukon to the rest of the world) and Martha Louise Black (who was the territory’s second MP as well as being the second woman to be elected to the House of Commons).
Allen said the city would work to ensure the pieces are protected and re-established when the corner is rebuilt.
Questions also came from Coun. Ted Laking on the efforts to make sure property owners at the intersection are consulted so that the work has as little disruption as possible for their establishments.
As Allen explained, that will be done with the contractor hired through the procurement.
“Typically what we’ll do is once we tender [and award] the work, we will then have a contractor on board and work with them to develop a schedule of when and how the work is going to proceed and then reach out to the impacted stakeholders to work with them to mitigate any impacts,” she said.
Council was unanimous in approving the procurement to go ahead.
The tender will be released in May with a contract to be awarded in June, the same month work is expected to get underway. It’s anticipated the new signals will be in place by September.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org