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Robert Service Way will remain closed for weeks

Temporary solution planned, but will take time, says city
City officials announce on May 12 that Robert Service Way will continue to remain close for a few weeks. Left to right are director of operations Tracy Allen, Mayor Laura Cabott and acting engineering manager Michael Abbott. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Robert Service Way will remain closed to traffic for at least three more weeks as the city installs a sheet pile wall in the area of the April 30 land slide.

“I do have the unfortunate news to say that any plans of reopening Robert Service Way shortly are not going to happen,” Mayor Laura Cabott told reporters at a May 12 press conference, where the city announced the temporary plan to stabilize the escapement area after the April 30 landslide that closed the road.

Cabott said that the decision not to reopen comes from the advice of experts — both city engineers and consultants working on the issue since April 30.

“It is still a danger to the public and will be a danger to any crews getting into here to move it,” she said.

A major portion of the road, as well as the Millennium Trail and Airport Trail, were closed after the landslide sent an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 cubic metres of debris down the escarpment, across Robert Service Way, and onto Yukon River ice.

The slide closed the road and Millennium Trail between the roundabout at Fourth Avenue and Miles Canyon Road near the Yukon Energy Corporation site with efforts ongoing to assess the area. A portion of the airport trail is also closed.

The city has been monitoring the site, which continues to see movement, water seepage and tension cracks.

As officials spoke in a safe zone near the site, the sound of water seeping from the escarpment could be heard.

“We’re still seeing movements in the area of the slide itself of anywhere from 60 millimeters to over 130 millimeters and while it doesn’t sound like a lot, that’s quite significant in terms of soil movement,” Tracy Allen, the city’s director of operations, said.

There’s a lot of water pressure, she said, and that could lead to another failure. Typically, she said, most activity happens in May and June before things stabilize.

That’s why the city is planning for the temporary measure while it looks at long term solutions.

Michael Abbott, the city’s acting manager of engineering services, explained the city will install a 100-metre long sheet pile wall in the area of the slide. Abbott explained the wall is made up of corrugated steel embedded into the ground with a barrier showing above ground that can contain debris if it comes down.

“And that’ll give us some risk reduction measures to allow us to get in there and remove debris and then shortly after that, open the road to the public,” he said. “We’re entertaining that as a temporary solution now to get us through spring, summer and at least through next year’s freshet to give us time to figure out what we’re going to do long-term here.”

While many of the materials needed for the wall are available locally, there are some parts that will need to be sourced from Alberta. And it takes some work to get the local materials in place.

“There’s a lot of coordination to bring in a pile driving head, mobilize the crane, remove some sheet piles from another area of the town; we working with a couple local contractors on that before mobilizing it here and beginning the process,” he said.

The officials noted the temporary solution could be used as part of a long-term solution, which may also include measures like soil berms, reinforcement netting and other measures.

As the city continues working on the slide area, it is also monitoring other parts of the escarpment with a study that will look at the entire slope through downtown.

Mayor Laura Cabott thanked the public for their patience and cooperation in dealing with the road and trail closures, continuing to encourage residents to use active transportation, transit or car pool whenever possible.

“I feel for people,” she said. “I’m a commuter myself and I know people have places to be, dropping off kids, getting to work, moving around the city. This can be very frustrating.”

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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