The site of the demolished F.H. Collins high school is slated to be home to a new Francophone high school in Riverdale. Yukon’s environmental assessment board is recommending the government go ahead with plans. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

YESAB recommends Yukon French high school goes ahead despite traffic concerns

YG says there will be reduced enrolment in Riverdale by at least as many students attending Francophone school

Yukon’s environmental assessors are recommending plans for the new Francophone high school in Riverdale go ahead despite some initial concerns about traffic congestion.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board designated office released its recommendations April 26.

It says plans for the school should be allowed so long as construction equipment is kept as as far away as possible from schools, a process is put in place for people to complain about noise, dust, and safety issues, and construction is kept at a minimum during exams.

The final decision will be up to the Yukon government which has 30 days to either accept, reject or modify the recommendations.

Construction of the new Francophone high school is proposed to begin in May 2019 and continue until November 2020, when the school opens.

It is slated to be built on the site of the F.H. Collins Secondary School which was demolished in 2017. It will be the sixth school in Riverdale.

Of the 15 comments sent to YESAB about the proposed plan, 13 included concerns regarding traffic and safety in Riverdale during the morning commute, the YESAB report says.

“Despite efforts to improve weekday traffic flow along Lewes Boulevard, the bottleneck caused by the Robert Campbell Bridge persists. This leads to a period of about 30 minutes during the morning traffic peak hour when Lewes Boulevard is highly congested.”

The most recent of the five traffic impact assessments that have been completed since 2011 says the Lewes Boulevard/Hospital Road intersection cannot accommodate the projected traffic volumes unless another northbound lane on Robert Campbell Bridge or a second bridge is constructed, the document says.

Officials were particularly concerned that the southbound left turn lane at the intersection “is expected to be over capacity in 2024 even without traffic generated from the project.”

Traffic assessments “led the designated office to conclude that the project would contribute to a significant adverse effect in the form of intersection lanes operating over their capacity.”

They appear to have changed their minds after the government told them “they will have reduced school enrolment in Riverdale by at least as many students that will attend the Francophone school.”

“Therefore, the proponent will be compensating for the traffic generated by the project, which will offset any contributions by the project to the significant cumulative traffic effect,” according to the document.

In an email, the spokesperson for the Yukon Department of Education said the government is developing a 10-year capital plan for schools and “locations are something that are being considered as buildings reach the end of their useful life,” the statement said.

“We will be engaging school communities as we develop long-term plans for replacing, repairing and retrofitting priority schools.”

The statement says the government also considers where students are living in Whitehorse.

“Currently, there are many students attending schools in Riverdale that do not live in the neighbourhood. Additionally, many of the students we expect to attend the French First Language high school are currently attending F.H. Collins Secondary or Vanier Catholic Secondary, and would not increase the number of students in Riverdale.”

The territorial government has faced criticism when it decided to build the $27.5-million high school and community centre for 150 students when earlier reports suggested a school for at least 200 students. The government has defended its math, insisting room for 150 students will be enough.

Plans for construction were delayed when contaminated soil was found under the old school last year. That cleanup cost the government $1.8 million.

Environment Yukon has said it might use a hydrocarbon resistant membrane as part of the construction. YESAB is recommending that if the membrane is used the ventilation system should be designed to ensure there are no adverse health affects.

It’s recommended that the government monitor indoor air quality to ensure no hydrocarbon vapours are present.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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