Busy route extended in interests of safety

Hamilton Boulevard is to be extended, giving 8,000 residents in Copper Ridge, McIntyre and Granger a second escape route by 2009.

Hamilton Boulevard is to be extended, giving 8,000 residents in Copper Ridge, McIntyre and Granger a second escape route by 2009.

On Friday, Ottawa and the Yukon each pledged up to $5 million for the extension through the municipal rural infrastructure fund.

The extension is needed to improve safety for people that use Hamilton Boulevard as the link to their homes, said Eric Magnuson, assistant deputy minister of Community Services.

“It’s become a public-safety priority,” he said. “There’s been concern about access in and out.”

For years, people have considered the sole road inadequate in the face of an emergency. The road could be cut off during a forest fire west of Copper Ridge, for example.

Meanwhile, Hamilton Boulevard — built in the early 1990s — has seen a massive increase in traffic because it’s the sole artery serving Copper Ridge, the site of a residential-development boom in recent years.

Why such a long wait for a second route out?

“A big part of it is finding the funding,” said Magnuson.

Through an agreement signed between the Yukon and Whitehorse several years ago, the city will contribute no more than $3.5 million of the estimated $15 million road extension. It isn’t clear yet who will make up the $1.5 million shortfall.

Projects using the municipal infrastructure fund usually see the Yukon and Ottawa each provide one third of the project’s cost, with the municipality in question funding the rest, said Magnuson.

Hamilton Boulevard will be extended west from its current limit at the Copper Ridge subdivision, before turning south, following a ridge, then linking up with Robert Service Way, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

The target of 2009 for completion of the road extension depends on when construction actually begins, he said.

And that, in turn, depends on how long it takes to complete the design and environmental assessment work, said Shewfelt.

And while the Hamilton extension will open further residential development opportunities, the main reason behind the extension is safety, he said.

“The primary focus is to get the road built,” said Shewfelt. “The future development elements will be looked at as time goes on.”

Many have noted the Hamilton extension has been a political football thrown around for years without being taken to the end zone.

During the 2005 Copperbelt byelection to replace former Yukon Party MLA Haakon Arntzen — who resigned his seat after being convicted on several sexual assault charges — all three candidates pledged to extend Hamilton.

Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell won the election and continues to hold the seat.

He has been pushing for the extension since the legislature reconvened in November.

The major concern isn’t convenience for residents, but safety, said Mitchell, who lives in Copper Ridge.

“There’s no other area of town, other than Riverdale, where there’s only the one way in and out,” he said.

“I think when we saw things like the forest fires in Kelowna, it becomes a concern.

“It’s a real bottleneck now.”

An accident at the roundabout located halfway along Hamilton could block the road and leave residents stranded, added Mitchell.

Friday’s announcement included several other Yukon community projects.

An access road to Nacho Nyak Dun settlement land being considered for residential development near Mayo will receive $233,333 from the municipal infrastructure fund.

And the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation is receiving a $150,000 contribution towards a playground to be built beside the future Tri’inke Zho Childcare Centre in Dawson City.

“Canada’s new government is proud to be part of projects that ensure that rural communities have the infrastructure to help them grow and develop,” said Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Jim Prentice, in a release.

Community Services Minister Glenn Hart could not be reached for comment.