Committee brainstorms solutions to footbridge conflicts

Build a new bridge for motorized vehicles to cross the Yukon River near the Millennium Trail. Or paint a line down the middle of Rotary Centennial Bridge and allow ATVs and snowmobiles to one side.

Build a new bridge for motorized vehicles to cross the Yukon River near the Millennium Trail. Or paint a line down the middle of Rotary Centennial Bridge and allow ATVs and snowmobiles to one side. Or simply knock down the footbridge entirely and end the bickering over who gets to use it.

Those are some of the more dramatic solutions proposed during a recent Trails and Greenways Committee Members brainstorming session.

The 13-member committee, made up of eight volunteers and five city representatives, was tasked by council to come up with new solutions for the future use of the footbridge.

The thorny issue was first brought to city administration’s attention in May 2013, after a Whitehorse resident was concerned with increased traffic on the bridge, which spans the Yukon River to the Riverdale subdivision. Motorized vehicles are currently not allowed on the bridge.

Since then, two distinct camps have butted heads on the issue: those who support motorization of the bridge and those who oppose it.

Last Thursday evening, the committee convened to flesh out possible solutions that hadn’t been brought up in the past.

In total, seven ideas were interesting enough for the committee to hang onto.

One idea was to keep the status quo but launch a public education campaign to encourage motorized vehicle users to stick to trails on their side of the river.

Another was to draw a line down the middle of the bridge so pedestrians could have one side, and motorized users could have the other.

Adding a Bailey bridge – a pre-fabricated truss bridge – at an approximate cost of $2.5 million, or some sort of secondary crossing, was also mentioned. Knocking down the existing bridge was also briefly mentioned.

Finally, one member suggested a shared space concept, similar to what already exists in many other countries where pedestrians and motorists share the same area. Obstacles would be set up to force motorized traffic to slow down.

Members will take those ideas and distill them down to one or two at their next scheduled meeting on Feb. 19.

A recommendation to council will follow shortly after. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only idea council will consider, said committee chair Doug Hnatiuk.

“Other user groups around the city have already called on their members and supporters to contact council about the issue, while questionnaires have also been sent out to Riverdale residents about the issue,” he said.

“Our committee isn’t discounting any of the ideas until we’ve had more time to talk about them. These are developed by members of the public who represent community groups, clubs and organizations that have an interest in trail management.

“They’re looking out for what’s in the best interest of all citizens and trail users.”

Once they’ve narrowed down their options, council will be requesting feedback from the public, although it’s unknown in what shape or form, Hnatiuk said.

In 2013, the newly formed committee tested a barricade prototype to attempt to restrict ATV and snowmobile traffic across the bridge.

It was vandalized after two weeks and had to be removed, Hnatiuk said.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 19 at 4:45 p.m. at the Sport Yukon Boardroom #2.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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