The Whitehorse transit system and two city roads are set to receive a total of more than $13 million from the federal and territorial governments.
The funding was unveiled at a July 25 press conference inside city hall by Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, territorial Community Services Minister John Streicker and Mayor Dan Curtis. The cash will see a new transit station built; four new buses purchased to replace aging vehicles in the city’s fleet; and the rebuilding of a portion of Cook Street downtown and Tlingit Street in Marwell.
The largest amount to come from the federal government will be $6.75 million for the reconstruction of part of Cook Street. In addition to upgrading utilities and surface improvements, trail work will be done from Black Street to Ogilvie Street. The territory is set to kick in a further $1.67 million with the city providing the remaining $100,000 for the work. Property owners on Cook Street voted in favour of a local improvement charge earlier this year that will help fund up to $632,409 for the work.
Another $4.12 million from Ottawa, $975,000 from the Yukon government and $400,000 from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (which has land in the area) will go to rebuilding Tlingit Street in Marwell with the city putting in a further $70,000.
“We’re paving the way for a bright future,” Bagnell said.
Meanwhile, on the transit side, the city will receive $1.65 million from the federal government and $550,000 from the territory for the new buses.
Finally, as the city plans for a new services building and major retrofits to city hall, a new transit station at Second Avenue and Steele Street as part of the overall building project are also planned.
The city is currently in the early design stages looking at how the new services building and city hall will be developed. At a council and senior management meeting in May, council members were presented with three potential concepts that would make use of the Second Avenue/Steele Street land the current downtown fire hall and city hall now take up. There’s also the possibility of shutting down a portion of Steele Street as part of the plans with the cenotaph that is now in front of city hall to be relocated.
The transit station will provide washrooms, bike racks and a heated waiting area to transit users.
“This is going to be very helpful,” Bagnell said, pointing out efforts to make transit more convenient will help get people on the bus system.
Streicker praised the city for making transit a priority and pointed to the plans for the station as another part of the effort to boost ridership in recent years. He suggested the location makes perfect sense.
“I think of this as the heart of the city,” he said.
Curtis was quick to highlight ridership levels, noting that most recent stats show 708,000 rides are taken in a given year.
The city views transit as an essential service and that requires continual investment not only in the vehicles such as the replacement of four buses but also in making the service convenient to users through initiatives like the building of a transit station, the mayor said.
The city recently adopted a new transit master plan that will guide the service into the coming years.
Along with washrooms, a heated waiting area and bike racks, Curtis said he also envisions screens that will show transit schedules and routes.
Plans on the exact layout of the station and precisely where it will be have not been decided.
“It’s still in the concept design (phase),” said Peter O’Blenes, the city’s director of infrastructure and operations.
Curtis said he anticipates the transit station, service building and retrofits to city hall happening within this council’s term of office, set to end in October 2021.
It will be the next major project for the city after the new downtown fire hall is built. It’s expected that will happen next year with the city having awarded the $3.2 million contract to Ketza Construction.
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