A woman crosses Second Avenue on Main Street in Whitehorse on April 23. A crosswalk scramble at that intersection is one idea that city engineers are putting on the table for city council to debate. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

City ‘scrambles’ for traffic solutions

Last week Whitehorse council discussed possibilities for major roads and intersections

Imagine crossing the street at Second Avenue and Main Street in Whitehorse.

Pick any corner; traffic is at a standstill as lights allow all pedestrians to cross without any vehicles moving. In a moment, drivers will take their turn as pedestrians wait.

It’s called a scramble and it was one of a few ideas city engineer Taylor Eshpeter put on the table for members of council to ponder at a council and senior management meeting April 18.

The meeting focused on “traffic hot spots” around town with Eshpeter looking at potential ideas the department may pursue based on council’s feedback.

The city’s’ road network is complex and should be considered in its entirety but there have been some areas of particular concern, he said.

Those include Second Avenue and Main Street where he suggested the scramble could be a tool to help manage the high number of vehicles and pedestrians making their way through the area.

Both city planning manager Mélodie Simard and Coun. Laura Cabott said they have made their way through scrambles in other cities that seem to work quite well.

Coun. Samson Hartland questioned why the city didn’t look at other methods to deal with the busy intersection that would help ease the frustration of drivers. As he pointed out, many are already dealing with traffic congestion during peak periods going in and out of Riverdale and the traffic at Main and Second may only add to that frustration for some.

Eshpeter confirmed officials are also exploring other options for the intersection along with outlining possibilities for Riverdale.

The Lewes Boulevard corridor in and out of Riverdale has long been an issue of contention for many with numerous schools, daycares and recreational activities happening in the Riverdale neighborhood. Long lines of traffic are common along Lewes Boulevard during peak periods.

Last year, the city conducted a temporary pilot project where a dedicated bus lane was added. The city is continuing to consider the possibility of a more permanent lane while Department of Education officials have told city staff they would look into staggering the start times of schools in the area as a way to help deal with the traffic, said Jeff O’Farrell, the city’s director of community and recreation services. Those decisions have yet to be made.

Department of Education spokesperson Kyle Nightingale said start times for the next school year are still being determined. There can be challenges, he said.

“The major consideration when setting bell schedules for schools in Whitehorse is ensuring bus routes are coordinated so they are efficient and meet the needs of students and families,” he explained in an email.

“Many schools in Riverdale offer programs of choice, such as French Immersion and Catholic education. Students who take these programs are often bused from different areas of the city. Many transfer to buses at the north and south ends of the city that take them to and from their homes outside of city limits. Bus routes that connect to north and south transfer stations need to be coordinated to ensure all students can arrive home safely and on time.”

Eshpeter said possibilities for Lewes Boulevard would be considered as part of the overall transportation master plan the city will be looking at in the near future. The update of the Official Community Plan that’s underway and expected to be adopted in 2020 will guide a new transportation plan.

The city operations building off of Range Road and a potential 73-unit seniors housing project on Range Road will mean more traffic for the intersection at Two Mile Hill, Coun. Jan Stick said when Eshpeter outlined work to get more data on traffic at the intersection.

Exploring the future demand needs of many areas is part of the ongoing work the city is doing, Eshpeter said, also pointing out as Whistle Bend keeps growing, greater traffic demands are being seen from there as well.

The city’s traffic committee also continues to deal with a number of complaints citing the need for more crosswalks and traffic calming measures on neighbourhood streets throughout Whitehorse. They are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, Eshpeter explained.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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