Yukon Party promises a bridge Whitehorse’s mayor says he’s not asking for

The Yukon Party is promising to plan for a second bridge into Riverdale.

The Yukon Party is promising to plan for a second bridge into Riverdale.

At the Second Haven Skatepark, while traffic over the Robert Campbell Bridge crawled past, Yukon Party candidate Danny Macdonald announced that a re-elected Yukon Party government would commit $100,000 to plan for a second bridge.

Other details were more vague. The cost, location, and timeline for building a possible bridge won’t be known until after the planning is complete, said Macdonald, who is running in Riverdale South.

Traffic complaints in Riverdale are well-established. The neighbourhood has only one bridge to get in or out. With five schools, and a potential sixth French school in the works, traffic during peak times can slow to a crawl. The neighbourhood is also home to the city’s only hospital.

Riverdale contains 20 per cent of the city’s population, according to a 2014 transportation management plan.

“With the increased pressure, increased amount of students coming to the schools, the number of schools we have here, with the concerns for access to Whitehorse General Hospital and with concerns if there’s ever a need to evacuate Riverdale, it’s time now to move on this,” Macdonald said.

The Yukon Party says it will work with the City of Whitehorse to come up with a plan for a new bridge. In May, when the issue was brought up in the legislature, Whitehorse city officials told the News they had no plans to build a second bridge.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said Thursday that a second bridge to Riverdale still isn’t on the city’s wish list.

Curtis, who ran for the Liberals in the 2011 territorial election, said he was “a little bit gobsmacked” when he heard the Yukon Party’s plans Thursday.

“We recognize there is a bit of congestion in the morning but nothing to warrant a guesstimated cost of about $40 million for an additional bridge,” he said.

Engineers have considered options to deal with traffic in the past.

About 10 years ago, council looked at the possibility of extending Industrial Road across the Yukon River to the area north of Long Lake, said Mike Gau, Whitehorse’s director of development services.

That would have provided a second way out, though Gau said it wouldn’t have helped with the Riverdale congestion.

At the time, the early estimate pegged the price tag at $16 million. Now the estimate is closer to $40 million, he said.

The current bridge could, in theory, accommodate a third lane but not the weight that would come with a fourth one, Gau said.

If somehow a third lane was approved, the only way to make room for it would be to tear up $1.7 million worth of work that was done two years ago to create a wider bike lane and pedestrian path.

“We don’t have a design for a third lane. Instead we went with a wider bike lane and pedestrian crossing to encourage our transportation demand management initiatives, before we spend the major dollars for an extra lane.”

The city is trying to encourage more people to get their cars off the road.

One of the goals is to reduce the number of people who drive themselves to work from the current 75 per cent to 50 per cent in the next 25 years.

A promise to plan for a new bridge is not the only election promise that was announced by the Yukon Party on Thursday. The party says that if it’s re-elected, it will build a new campground.

The location will be picked after consulting with the community, according to a party announcement.

The party says it will also make improvements to existing campgrounds by increasing the number of sites, upgrading current sites and replacing outdated infrastructure.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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