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Whitehorse roads reprioritized for snow clearing

Priorities set for winter road clearing
Whitehorse city council has approved updates to the snow and ice policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

An updated policy will guide City of Whitehorse crews as they ready for another winter season of plowing and sanding roads around town.

At Whitehorse city council’s Sept. 13 meeting, members voted in favour of a number of changes to the snow and ice control policy that sets out the order for plowing and sanding roads.

The changes saw roads not included in the previous iteration of the policy added, along with some roads being reprioritized due to transit, access changes and more.

Under the changes, Olive May Way and Keno Way are listed as Priority 2 roads for snow clearing with lanes in Whistle Bend added as a Priority 2.5 for curbside waste collection.

Meanwhile, a portion of Black Street between Second Avenue and Front Street has been changed from Priority 2 to Priority 1 because of the new fire hall there. Range Road’s status also changed to a Priority 1 road from Priority 2.

McLean Lake Road was added as a Priority 2 to reflect its access through Hamilton Boulevard, while McLean Creek Lane was moved to Priority 3 from its current Priority 2 status, as it no longer serves as quarry access.

Mount Sima and Lagoon Roads became Priority 1 roads for ice control due to the grade of the Mount Sima Road at the Alaska Highway intersection and to ensure access of Lagoon Road.

The parking lot at the city operations building has been added as a Priority 4, while new trails along the Alaska Highway near Hillcrest and Range Road were added to paved trails the operations department will maintain through the winter, with the other being the Two Mile Hill multi-use trails.

Under the policy, Priority 1 roads are plowed and sanded first. They include freeways; major arterial routes, emergency routes and transit routes; roads that have steep grades; and, if it’s during spring melt, areas known to have drainage problems.

Priority 2 roads come next and are the remaining arterial roads and city bus routes, major industrial roads, roads in the Central Business District downtown, roadways next to schools and more heavily-used city facilities and parking lots as well as emergency routes in Priority 2 areas.

Priority 2.5 are laneways used for curbside waste collection. The remainder of city roads are classified as Priority 3. Finally, other city-owned parking lots and lanes fall under Priority 4.

In a report to council, city staff emphasized there would be no service reductions with the addition of new roads; rather streets not outlined in the policy would be added into the corresponding priority.

Discussion among councillors at the meeting focused largely on trails. Under the policy, the city’s operations crews clear what are deemed as major commuter paths. The city’s parks staff also maintain some paths through the winter.

Coun. Steve Roddick argued that it seems to be an arbitrary decision as to which pathways are maintained.

Pointing to comments made by a delegate to council a week earlier, Roddick noted the importance of maintaining trails through the winter as a way to encourage active transportation.

The issue of trails needs to be addressed more urgently than the next comprehensive review — potentially three to five years down the road — will allow, he said, before making a motion to refer the matter back to administration to include clear criteria for clearing trails in the policy.

There’s a need for Whitehorse to ask itself if it truly is a winter city, Roddick said.

Despite a number of council members noting their agreement with Roddick, they did not vote in favour of his motion. Many noted with a new council to be elected in October, there would not be enough time to make the changes to the policy before the first snowfall of the year.

Council members, did, however, stress the importance of the issue being looked at in more detail.

“This needs to be a priority in the next year for the new council,” Coun. Laura Cabott said of a full comprehensive review of the policy.

Similarly, Coun. Dan Boyd commented that while he understood Roddick’s points, the timing was “really unfortunate.”

Pointing specifically to the change for Mount Sima Road to move from Priority 2 to Priority 1 for ice control, he noted delaying the decision on the change could create a safety issue for those travelling Mount Sima Road.

Coun. Samson Hartland concurred with his colleagues, stating too that the timing on it “is most unfortunate.”

Ultimately, Roddick was the only member to vote in favour of referring the matter back to administration, thus his motion was defeated.

Council then voted in favour of adopting the changes to the policy.

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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