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New traffic light signals confusion for some drivers

Government makes changes to provide more clarity at Robert Service Way
A new light at the intersection of Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway is aimed at improving safety for those turning left. Modification to the signal and signage were made after a number of drivers complained that the new signals were confusing. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

As efforts continue to plan for long-term changes to the Alaska Highway at Robert Service Way, the Yukon government has made further alterations to a new signal at the intersection.

The changes come due to confusion over the light that was installed in March.

In an April 26 letter responding to Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent over the new light, highways and public works minister Nils Clarke pointed out the territory is working on a full redesign of the intersection with a consultant now in place looking at the safety benefits of a roundabout versus a realigned intersection with signals.

While that is underway, the protected left green light was installed in an effort to halt oncoming traffic while the green signal light is on, protecting those turning left onto Robert Service Way, Highways and Public Works spokesperson Krysten Johnson explained in an email.

Dealing with confusion

The new signal has been the subject of discussion on social media with a number of residents arguing having a green light for the left turn lane while the next lane has a red light creates significant confusion. The new signal also made for fodder on the Yukon Memes Facebook page.

Many of the approximately 130 comments on the meme agree the new lights are confusing.

“When you need an instruction sign beside a traffic light, something is definitely confusing,” one comment reads.

Others argue it is drivers and not the lights that may be the problem, some offering up advise to those using the intersection.

“Green means go, red means stop, if it’s red in your lane ….. come on now, you get this,” states another comment.

Kent brought up the confusion in his correspondence to Clarke. In his response, Clarke acknowledged the situation.

“Making this intersection safe to use is a high priority for the department,” he wrote. “We made some modifications to signage and lighting this past weekend to provide more clarity for drivers and will continue to monitor over the next few weeks to determine if further adjustments are needed.”

Johnson said the department was quickly made aware of the confusion, so modifications and signage were to put in place. Among the changes were repositioning the left turn signal head to align better with the turning lane; adding a left turn arrow sign; and adding two through lane signs.

“We are continuously monitoring the intersection to make it as safe to use as possible and we will make further modifications if necessary,” she said. “We would like to thank residents and drivers for their patience as we work through these changes.”

Long term plans

The long term planning for the intersection is part of the Yukon government’s efforts to make improvements to the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse.

The plans for 2022 will see work between Lodestar Lane and the Whitehorse weigh scales, north of the Robert Service Way intersection, including a safer access to and from the weigh scales, enhanced lighting, additional lanes and the completion of a multi-purpose trail.

In 2023, from Robert Service Way to Philmar RV, the intersection upgrades will be done, frontage roads will be put in place to connect businesses and provide a new school bus transfer station, and there will be additional work for a trail and to add lanes.

Johnson said further details on exactly what changes will be made to the intersection will be announced after the analysis of the intersection is finished later this year.

The 2021 season saw improvements to the Hillcrest area of the highway with new lanes, a pedestrian-enabled traffic signal at Burns Road, a new paved trail along the highway and improved turning lanes.

Work is also planned for the highway near Porter Creek and Crestview, though project timelines have not yet been announced.

That work is anticipated to take two years and would see realignments of Centennial Street and Lodgepole Lane as well as 15th Avenue and Birch Street. Laberge Road would be directed to a frontage road rather than directly to the highway, with drivers then accessing the highway from there at MacDonald and Wann Road.

As the Yukon government outlined on its webpage about the highway plans: “Over the past several years, Yukoners have raised a number of safety concerns about the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse. That’s why we’ve prioritized several areas along the Alaska Highway for safety improvements.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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