Relatives of pedestrian struck in 2001 urge change after latest fatality at the intersection

‘I don’t know what the solution is, but I just think something needs to be done’

Two Whitehorse women say they’re sad and frustrated after a pedestrian was fatally hit by a truck last month at the same intersection where their elderly relative was also fatally struck by a vehicle 18 years ago.

The city needs to take action to prevent more pedestrians from being hurt Justien Wood and Michelle Leas said in interviews Dec. 2, claiming nothing’s changed since Wood’s grandmother and Leas’s great-grandmother, Margaret Wood, was hit in 2001.

Margaret, 85, was struck by a vehicle as she was crossing Second Avenue at Elliott Street in the early afternoon of Dec. 27, 2001.

The Whitehorse Star reported at the time that she suffered a broken leg and skull in the crash, and was transported to Edmonton for treatment.

At the time, her family, including Justien and Leas’s parents, urged the city to install cameras at intersections and lower the speed limit.

Merle Gorgichuk, 48, was crossing at that same intersection on Nov. 21 of this year when a truck hit and killed him.

Justien said the news about Gorgichuk’s death made her “quite upset,” because he and her grandma aren’t the only pedestrians who have been injured or killed trying to cross Second Avenue.

“I don’t want to be pointing fingers and making anybody feel badly. That’s important to me because I know it’s very traumatizing for all involved,” she said.

“(This is) just a plea to the city to do something about it … I don’t know what the solution is, but I just think something needs to be done.”

Leas said she would like to see speed limits in downtown Whitehorse lowered, and for drivers to slow down and pay closer attention at crosswalks.

“I know I’ve driven along that stretch and I’ll stop for a pedestrian and have the person in the next lane blow right through almost hitting them. This is just such a huge problem,” she said.

“Everyone’s in a rush, and for what? … After so many people have been hit, some action needs to be taken at some point here. I mean, this can’t keep happening.”

Another solution, she suggested, would be for the city to install more light-up crosswalks that flash when pedestrians are crossing, like the ones already in place across Second Avenue at Wood Street and Fourth Avenue at the Yukon Inn Plaza.

The city installed signs marking crosswalks on Second Avenue following Gorgichuk’s death, although officials said that was work the city was already planning on doing.

In an email, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin wrote that there are “a number of discussions occurring internally about potential improvements to Second Avenue, but they are in the early planning and assessment stages.”

Part of the assessment, Dolphin wrote, is a study on the Second Avenue corridor by a transportation engineering consultant that’s expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

“There will be recommendations that we’ll be looking into, to see if we can implement any in 2020, but realistically, they are large changes that will take time to properly analyze, consult with the public, and implement through the capital project process,” he wrote.

Dolphin also noted that a citywide transportation master plan is beginning next year, “and will be the platform to engage with the public for input on changes to Second Avenue and decide on implementation timelines.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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