City dispels theory of malfunctioning traffic lights

Two drivers whose vehicles collided at the intersection of Two Mile Hill and the Alaska Highway on Sept. 28 both claimed to have the green light. For the city, it was a signal to look into the claim.

Two drivers whose vehicles collided at the intersection of Two Mile Hill and the Alaska Highway on Sept. 28 both claimed to have the green light.

For the city, it was a signal to look into the claim.

“As soon as someone gives us a complaint like that, we can’t ignore it,” said Larry Shipman, a technologist with the city’s engineering department. The complaints came on Oct. 2, he said. “We have to look into it right away.”

So, last week, city employees tested the intersection to see if it was possible for both lights in opposite directions to be green. They concluded it isn’t.

A traffic control box monitors all the channels at an intersection. There are certain things that aren’t allowed to happen. One is two green lights in opposite directions. If that did occur, the whole intersection would start to flash, said Shipman.

Officials test all city intersections every year, but did a special inspection just because of these complaints, said Shipman.

The complaint that drivers travelling in opposite directions at that intersection have both received green lights is not common, he said. But it is not new.

Five years ago this month, Clara Rutherford was driving down from Granger. She was volunteering for the food drive and had just dropped off another volunteer at home. Her grandson and one of his friends were with her in the car.

As she was turning left towards Porter Creek, her car T-boned another vehicle coming up from downtown. A witness said both drivers had the green light, said Rutherford. And her passengers agreed – they were almost old enough to get their licences, and were carefully watching how she drove, she said.

No one was seriously injured, but her car was a write-off, she said.

The intersection has changed since then. In 2011, the city put in slotted turning lanes at the bottom of Hamilton Boulevard, said Shipman. While the territorial government is responsible for the Alaska Highway, the intersection of Two Mile Hill and Hamilton Boulevard is the city’s responsibility.

Between 2000 and 2009, 248 incidents were recorded as happening at Two Mile Hill. Of those, 53 incident reports mentioned the incident happened at the intersection of Two Mile Hill and the Alaska Highway.

Some multi-vehicle incidents have more than one incident report, said Sebastien Markley with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. There were no fatalities. Twenty-seven vehicles were totalled and 101 people were injured.

The intersection is much better now, said Rutherford. But there are still concerns.

There is no predictable pattern for the intersection’s traffic lights, said John Hale. The owner of Mile 918 Driver Development has been teaching driving for 20 years. He teaches commercial truck drivers.

Hale estimates about 200 trucks travel through that intersection each day. He drives through that intersection, on average, about 10 times a day, he said.

There are times when Hale is getting ready to turn left, but the light turns red before he can make the turn, he said.

He trains drivers to anticipate what will happen next. It’s almost impossible to do that at that intersection, and that makes it dangerous, he said.

The timing may not always be predictable, but there is a method behind it. The intersection at the Alaska Highway and Two Mile Hill is triggered by a vehicle-activated sensor.

The amount of time a light stays a certain colour depends on the amount of traffic. A driver may be ready to turn left, but if the trigger has already been signalled before they get to the turning lane, they may have to wait through another cycle before they can go.

When no one’s on the road, the lights on Two Mile Hill-Hamilton Boulevard stay on green, said Shipman.

Not every intersection is the same. Some, like the intersection at Two Mile Hill and Chilkoot Trail, are timed according to traffic flow. The lights on main streets always receive the maximum amount of time, he said.

Traffic consultants determine how often lights should change, said Shipman. Maximum times can vary from intersection to intersection. And some lights, like the ones at Main Street and Second Avenue, run on fixed cycles, he said.

Rutherford had nightmares after the accident. She never volunteered for the food drive again. And, for a long time, she would cringe every time she had to cross Two Mile Hill and the Alaska Highway.

She’s still wary of it. “I treat it with extreme caution,” she said.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Most Read