Committee narrows its footbridge recommendations

A city committee tasked with coming up with new solutions for the future use of the Rotary Centennial Bridge has narrowed down its recommendations from seven to two.

A city committee tasked with coming up with new solutions for the future use of the Rotary Centennial Bridge has narrowed down its recommendations from seven to two.

But they have to be kept under wraps until April 2, when the group’s report will be presented to Whitehorse city council.

That’s according to Marc Boulerice, acting chair of the trails and greenways committee members, who said it was impossible for the group to agree on a single solution.

“It’s a pretty divisive issue,” he said.

“Even the committee wasn’t able to come down to one option. We don’t want to spill the beans just yet, because our goal is to try to make everybody aware of the recommendations at the same time.

“We’re trying to keep it an open and fair process.”

Snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles are currently not allowed on the bridge. But Riverdale’s offroad vehicle users are pushing for this to change, noting that the bridge is the only available means for them to access trails on the far side of the Yukon River. Other residents, however, worry that allowing motorized vehicles on the bridge would spoil the tranquility found along one of the city’s most popular pedestrian trails, and that it could pose a safety hazard.

The 13-member committee met for its monthly meeting on Feb. 19, behind closed doors, to “improve the comfort of the people who were there,” said Boulerice.

“We didn’t want them to feel like they were under pressure or scrutiny,” he said. “We wanted people to speak openly and freely.”

They discussed seven ideas proposed during a brainstorming session back in January. One is to allow motorized vehicles on the bridge during designated times for a trial period. Another is to paint a line down the middle of the bridge, with motorized vehicles allowed on one side.

Another proposal is to launch a public education campaign to encourage motorized vehicle users to stick to trails on their side of the river.

Adding a Bailey bridge – a pre-fabricated truss bridge – at an approximate cost of $2.5 million, was also mentioned.

Finally, one member suggested that pedestrians and motorists could share the bridge better if obstacles were set up to slow down motorized vehicles.

Some residents have proposed opening up the emergency bridge over the Whitehorse dam to off-road vehicle use. But according to Yukon Energy, that’s not an option.

“There are a number of reasons why this is not an option, the biggest ones being issues of safety and security,” said Yukon Energy spokesperson Janet Patterson in an e-mail.

“We operate critical infrastructure and as such are not able to provide access on a regular basis to the general public. That being said, in an emergency situation we would of course provide access to first respondent vehicles and others as needed.”

Others have suggested using the Robert Campbell Bridge to get out of Riverdale, but the city has banned ATVs and snowmobiles from designated boulevards, the downtown area, and roadways unless vehicles are headed directly to a permitted trail.

Boulerice said the committee’s report will go out to council and be available to the public at the same time, and then be reviewed at the April 7 standing committee meeting.

Public comments, submitted through the city’s website, will also be part of the report, Boulerice added.

The bridge, which opened in July 2005, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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