Upgrading both the Range Road and Alaska Highway intersections at Two Mile Hill could be beneficial for all who make their way through the area, says Forest Pearson of the Whitehorse Urban Cycling Association.
“It’s a positive move,” Pearson said in a March 10 interview, adding it provides an opportunity for the work to be done right.
Whitehorse city council voted March 14 to move forwad with plans to include both intersections in upgrades (rather than just the Range Road intersection as originally planned) and engage with the Yukon government on the plans. The Yukon government has jurisdiction over the Alaska Highway.
As Stefan Baer, the city’s transportation engineer, stated in an earlier report to council, efforts have been underway to address concerns over the Range Road intersection at Two Mile Hill for some time. A corridor study of Range Road and an intersection study in 2020 have been done for the area.
“The majority of complaints relate to road safety as a result of the spacious and confusing geometry and active transportation facilities that can be uncomfortable for road users,” Baer said. “There is also considerable concern with vehicular traffic ‘queuing’ on Range Road southbound during the morning peak times, particularly when school is in session.”
While the city was already planning for potential upgrades to that intersection, the Yukon government also indicated its interest in upgrades to the Alaska Highway at Two Mile Hill and Hamilton Boulevard, just east of Range Road.
“In preliminary discussions between engineering services and the transportation engineering branch, Yukon has indicated interest in expediting upgrades at this intersection to integrate and coordinate with the city’s project at Range Road and Two Mile Hill Road,” Baer said.
He highlighted the changes planned. The work would see the study area include both intersections, a re-evaluation of transportation functional planning for the area, and management of a single expanded project that considers both intersections.
The work would be managed by the city with “support, collaboration, and a funding contribution from the Government of Yukon.”
“From a transportation planning perspective this is beneficial because the two intersections functionally operate together and the design outcomes of each intersection have significant implications on each other,” Baer said. “It will also allow for an integrated design approach for both intersections that considers and meets the functional transportation needs for all road users, interested parties and both governments.”
Pearson also pointed to the importance of making the roadway safe for all users. Currently Range Road/Two Mile Hill is an area with high speed traffic, not enough time for some to cross the road and other issues. At the Alaska Highway intersection, there are large snowbanks that create issues for those who use active transportation.
“It feels unsafe,” Pearson said, adding for many that’s a barrier in choosing active transportation options.
There’s also a significant part of the population who don’t have the privilege of owning a vehicle and use more sustainable means to commute through the city that should be considered when intersections are upgraded, he said.
Pearson pointed to other regions in the world where cycling is a more common form of transportation. Often in those regions, officials look at whether most eight-year-olds would be able to go through the intersection safely, he said.
Pearson said he hopes potential upgrades will be looked at through a lens of equity first.
He’s also hopeful the city will continue, as he said its done recently, to engage with the public in the early phases of the project so that input can be incorporated more easily into the plans.
Under questioning by council at the March 7 meeting, Baer acknowledged the change in scope could put work behind by about a year, with work on the roadways more likely to begin in 2024 rather than 2023.
Coun. Ted Laking said he’s heard a number of concerns over the limited time there is to cross the crosswalk at the Range Road intersection and the difficulty those with mobility challenges have in making it across in time.
Baer said the city can look at the issue and would be considering accessibility and safety throughout the project.
Council was unanimous in voting for the scope change to also include the Alaska Highway intersection.
With it now approved, administration will begin work to develop an agreement with the Yukon government that determines future plans.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org