Accident prone intersection goes 360°

After more than a year and a threefold increase in fender-benders, the intersection at Second and Fourth will revert to its former self.

After more than a year and a threefold increase in fender-benders, the intersection at Second and Fourth will revert to its former self.

Following advice from a traffic-safety expert, the city will repaint the southbound lanes on Fourth Avenue so just one turns left onto Second.

Currently there are two turning lanes — and that configuration has made the intersection the most accident-prone in the city.

In 2003 and 2004, before the intersection was retooled, it saw 13 accidents a year.

That number jumped to 29 in 2005, after it was changed, and has already reached more than 25 in 2006, according to numbers obtained by The News in July.

Collision patterns showed the problem was drivers making left turns, according to the expert’s report’s summary.

In the summer of 2005, the city increased the number of southbound lanes for turning on to Second Avenue from one to two.

It was done to improve traffic flow, said city operations director Brian Crist.

“Most of the traffic is bound for Second Avenue, so it was thought that two left-turn lanes off of Two Mile Hill would help the intersection’s ability to handle the increased traffic.”

It posted signs at the crossroads and launched an information campaign explaining how to use the new lanes.

But advice never stuck and the number of fender-benders shot up.

It’s common for accident rates to spike right after traffic-flow changes are made, said Crist.

City reps waited and watched, but the rates never leveled out.

“People never really got used to the changes,” said Crist.

In July, the territory brought Vancouver traffic safety specialist Paul de Leur to the Yukon to check the safety of the Alaska Highway between Two Mile Hill and Porter Creek.

De Leur drafted a report but the city will not release the entire document until its information has been finalized.

The city will launch an information campaign and put up more signs to alert drivers to the new changes, which are slated to take effect September 29.

There was no “significant cost” to complete the study or to reconfigure the intersection, said Crist.

Vote ‘yes’ for lots,

‘no’ for greenbelt

A proposed residential development in Arkell may give the city a chance to try out its newly passed referendum bylaw.

And that could mean an extra question on next month’s municipal election ballot.

On top of picking the city’s next mayor and council, Whitehorse voters could also be choosing whether a 12.3-hectare piece of land should lose its protected status and be transformed into housing lots.

The ballot question would simply ask whether the land should be considered for residential development, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

But it won’t say what sort of housing can be expected to sit on the property because that hasn’t been determined yet.

“It is a blank slate, but I think that gives you more opportunity,” said city councillor Jan Stick.

“What we want you to consider is the possibility of residential going in there, then do the planning much like the way we’re going ahead in Porter Creek,” said Stick.

The fact that the city does not yet have concrete plans for the area may discourage voters, but when the city has gone into an area with a plan all mapped out that has residents too.

“Then people think they weren’t involved in the planning process,” Stick added.

Other councillors say the wording of the question is vague and will lead voters to nix development before it has a chance to begin.

“It’s not clear, we haven’t discussed it enough,” councillor Dave Stockdale told council this week.

Although the type of housing has not been decided yet, Millennium Mobile Homes has approached both the territorial government and the city to see if the land could be made available, said Shewfelt.

The triangular swath of Crown land is wedged between the Arkell and McIntyre subdivisions.

It was originally slated for development along with the rest of the Arkell subdivision in 1989, but was left alone when the Kwanlin Dun First Nation considered it as a land claim selection.

The Kwanlin Dun decided it didn’t want the land and it ended up being lumped in with the larger greenbelt area around McIntyre, Falcon and Copper Ridge.

Depending on the type of housing put in the area, the space could accommodate between 50 and 100 lots.

Bylaw 2006-10, passed by city council in June, calls for a citywide referendum every time a piece of land which is designated protected — greenbelt, environmental protection or park reserve — is to be developed.

In an election year, the vote is to be piggybacked on the municipal election ballots, according to the bylaw’s wording.

Council will decide whether to put the referendum on the city’s ballot at next week’s meeting.