Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Geraldine Van Bibber

YG not taking safety concerns seriously: YP

Yukon Party (YP) MLAs are raising concerns about road safety in their Lake Laberge, Porter Creek North and Copperbelt South ridings.

By Taylor Blewett on November 6, 2017

Yukon Party (YP) MLAs are raising concerns about road safety in their Lake Laberge, Porter Creek North and Copperbelt South ridings.

They are also criticizing the Liberal government for declining to take these concerns seriously.

Geraldine Van Bibber, the YP MLA for Porter Creek North, told the legislature last Thursday that multiple constituents in her riding have requested a south- bound turning lane on the Alaska Highway in front of the Super A grocery store.

The YP already raised this issue during the spring legislative sitting. Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said he would look into the matter, according to Van Bibber.

“We’ve heard of a number of close calls at that spot where people are turning in to a grocery store and a commercial area off of a main highway and there’s no turning lane in place. We’re raising these concerns,” YP House Leader Scott Kent told the Star Friday.

Mostyn did not provide a direct answer in the house to Van Bibber’s questions about that particular intersection, nor to her request that the government commit to installing the turning lane.

“The stretch of highway from the South Klondike up to the North Klondike Highway ... is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the territory and sees a lot of traffic. There are a lot of concerns up and down this stretch of highway,” the minister told the house.

“The members opposite did a fairly fulsome traffic study and did some engagement on that. I have looked over that document. The engagement was inconclusive.

“There’s a lot of support, but there’s also a lot of objections to the findings of the report. We are sifting through that right now to come up with a way forward to address some of the concerns.”

Mostyn announced last week that the government will not be going forward with a $200-million Yukon Party plan for the Whitehorse corridor of the Alaska Highway, which stretches between the North and South Klondike Highways and ends just beyond both.

Public consultations

The previous government under premier Darrell Pasloski funded significant public consultations on the project and the congestion and safety concerns it was designed to address.

In an interview with the Star this morning, Mostyn reiterated his statements made in the house last week that the Porter Creek intersection is one of many intersections along the Whitehorse corridor that will be reviewed under the Liberal government in the coming months and years.

However, it is not currently a priority location for any changes, he said.

He cited statistics that indicate over the past 10 years, the Super A intersection has seen an annual average of 1.6 collisions, with none occurring in the last three years.

“The department is crunching the numbers; the data is there,” he said. “It’s not the most critical area.”

The government has identified priority areas that require the most immediate attention to address road safety issues, Mostyn said.

Robert Service Way and Two Mile Hill currently top that list, which could change, according to the minister, if data reflect emerging concerns.

Kent, the MLA for Copperbelt South, wrote to Mostyn Oct. 2 to flag another safety concern along the Alaska Highway in his riding.

Over the summer, lines where the highway intersects with Gentian Lane were changed to allow for passing in the southbound lane.

“Several Gentian Lane residents have identified this as a safety issue as they are making a left turn onto their road and have reported a number of close calls with vehicles passing them as they were about to turn,” he wrote in the email to Mostyn, asking him to revert the centre lines back to double solid.

In his Oct. 20 response, Mostyn said the lines will remain as they have been recently painted.

He pointed out that this section of the Alaska Highway – about five minutes south of the Carcross cut-off toward Marsh Lake – is the first safe passing opportunity for vehicles after driving through the Whitehorse corridor. Lines were modified to adhere to national engineering guidelines for lane markings, he said.

“Maintaining this section of highway as a no-passing zone undermines users’ respect for traffic control because they recognize a passing opportunity, and this results in an increased likelihood of risky maneuvers as a result of inappropriate lane markings that restrict passing,” he wrote.

Kent said Mostyn’s response “wasn’t extremely helpful.

“We’re hearing feedback from Yukoners that what’s in place isn’t working,” he told the Star Friday.

Closer look

“We’d like the minister to take a closer look at that rather than hiding behind safety standards that make work in southern jurisdictions but certainly aren’t working here.”

This morning, Mostyn disputed the assertion that the Yukon is an enigma that national road safety standards can’t capture.

“There are roads in northern Ontario up in North Bay, there are roads in northern Labrador that are just as bad as they are here, they’re using the same national standards.”

“The Yukon’s a unique place in many ways. The fact that we’ve got snow and ice and cold temperatures? Not so much.”

Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers has highlighted other high-traffic areas in the territory – albeit on the North Klondike rather than Alaska Highway – that are prompting “serious safety concerns” from nearby residents, according to an August letter to Mostyn.

Changes to line patterns on the North Klondike near Hidden Valley have led to “numerous close calls and near accidents” at the Couch Road and the 2 Mile Road intersections on the highway, Cathers wrote. He called for a return to the old line patterns on the highway section.

The lines were reworked in September 2016 – under the Yukon Party government – after the road was repaved, a decision that itself mystified some area residents

“If I may paraphrase an old saying,” Cathers wrote to Mostyn, “No matter how beautiful the theory, one should occasionally look at the results.

“It is clear to me from public feedback that the theoretical improvements made to the highway line pattern in September 2016 have actually increased the risk of vehicle collision ... and made people feel less safe.”

He also called for a longer, better-marked turning lane at the entrance of 2 Mile Road and improved lighting at the North Klondike and MacPherson Road intersection near which Hidden Valley Elementary School is located.

In a Sept. 15 response, Mostyn said the line configuration through Hidden Valley will not be reverted to the pre-2016 pattern, as the new configuration has been deemed safer.

“This layout is a standard intersection configuration that shifts traffic away from turning vehicles and is proven to reduce the frequency of left-turning vehicle rear-end collisions.”

He reiterated his government’s commitment to evidence-based decision-making this morning. He pointed out that this section of the North Klondike Highway has seen less than one collision per year for the last 10 years, and no fatalities or injuries.

In his September letter Mostyn agreed, however, with the need to reassess the 2 Mile Road intersection turning lane. He noted in his reply that such an assessment will be completed by the end of this season.

As for the lighting at MacPherson, Mostyn said a review of the intersection near the Hidden Valley Elementary was completed in 2015 and the single street light at the location was determined more than adequate.

According to the minister, the intersection does not require any illumination whatsoever.

Kent emphasized in his Friday interview the need to listen to constituents, regardless of standards being met or exceeded.

“This, again, is a government that ran on a ‘be heard’ tagline and I’m sure my constituents and MLAs Van Bibber and Cathers’ constituents would certainly like to be heard on this specific issue when it comes to safety for them and their families.”

Mostyn said today that he is always listening to Yukoners, but unfortunately, the spending of the previous YP government left the Yukon Liberals financially constrained.

“We just can’t run off and do things, because they would be great to have. We have to actually put a critical eye to these things and actually make very tough decisions.... We don’t have discretionary spending like we once did.”

He also noted in the legislature last Thursday that Highways and Public Works officials follow up and assess every issue of road safety brought to the minister’s attention – including those from the Yukon Party.

Comments (21)

Up 0 Down 0

for the books on Nov 13, 2017 at 1:14 am

"this project was on the books for seven years"
On the books is often a decoy tactic without actually doing anything.
Tell us why then it wasn't done in those seven years???
Case closed hypocrites!

Up 4 Down 7

This project has being on the books for seven years and there was planning taking place on Nov 12, 2017 at 9:12 am

The previous had it in the plans to fix the problem, but the present government with the City of Whitehorse made a decision that the safety of our resident are less important as wasting money on a lot of other things which is less important.
Number one responsibility is safety of our people but these politician don't get it, especially the minister.
Read the letter in this paper to get the real facts on this subject.
The previous liberal and NDP governments had an opportunity to do something with this problem but chose to do nothing. At least the Yukon Party put a program in place to fix the problem.
The liberal supports don't get it at all.

Up 15 Down 3

slow down for a moment here on Nov 11, 2017 at 2:30 am

Let's see now ... the complainer MLAs' party was in power for 14 years until just last year yet did nothing about this apparent severe problem? Looking for sympathy now seems so disingenuous, sorry.

Up 16 Down 4

BnR on Nov 9, 2017 at 5:54 pm

And the bus got t-boned because why..........? Maybe distracted driving, racing a light?
Thanks for illustrating the need for drivers to slow the he!! down and pay attention.

Up 14 Down 10

Unbiased opinion on Nov 8, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Sarah, the previous Government had no plans.

Up 24 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Nov 8, 2017 at 11:37 am

I would like to see some effort to remove the tired old and dangerous vehicles from driving on our roadways. Bald tires, poor brakes, lights that don't work, and in some cases sparks flying off the parts dragging under the vehicle. Safety begins with what you're driving.

Up 26 Down 26

Garrioch's Reliable Source on Nov 7, 2017 at 3:48 pm


So the remnants of the Pasloski Party continue to whine about "issues" that only concern the ridings that they represent.
A group desperate to keep their jobs because they'll have a lot of trouble getting another one after the next election methinks.

Up 24 Down 3

Politico on Nov 7, 2017 at 2:43 pm

@PSG Bylaw officers cannot hand out traffic tickets, only the police can.
Most safety concerns could be mitigated by people slowing down to the speed limit and just following the traffic laws.

Up 39 Down 10

Jonathan Colby on Nov 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm

The only dangerous thing on the highway are people who refuse to drive responsibly.

Seriously, accidents happen because yellow lights are green lights and the difference between a 10 minute commute and a 10.5 minute commute is justification enough for any number of illegal and/or poorly executed maneuvers... right? Yukon highways are loaded with distracted, selfish, and outright bad drivers. 200 million won't make that any different.

Up 27 Down 6

Moose, you silly Liberal... on Nov 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Don't you know that it is the job of the Official Opposition to lobby the government on behalf of their constituents? A few people coming forward and saying there are safety concerns is not worth raising, you say? That is what they were elected to do! Give the government ideas. It is the government's job to find a way to make the dollars work...for US, Yukoners...constituents!

Up 24 Down 18

yukon56 on Nov 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

Funny how the YP has concerns once out of government

Up 21 Down 21

Sarah on Nov 7, 2017 at 8:48 am

And further to my comment, a school bus got t-boned this morning at the Hamilton Blvd. and Alaska Highway intersection. Changes DO need to happen within the corridor. Thanks to the Liberals, these changes are further and further away. Having to scrap a GOOD plan for their own version of the same plan to have their own name on it is an expensive and nonsense way to govern. Fix the areas with safety concerns, collaborate using plans of the previous government, put away your egos and get to work.

Up 31 Down 10

BnR on Nov 7, 2017 at 6:56 am

The only “safety concerns”on this stretch of highway would be easily mitigated by drivers slowing down and paying attention.

Up 24 Down 16

Moose on Nov 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm

The Yukon Party MLAs seem to think money grows on trees. Each of them demanding the government spend millions of dollars on roadwork in their areas.....based on nothing more than a few people saying “I think this is unsafe” with no evidence or data to back it up. Says a lot about how they governed over the past decade or so. Yikes!

Up 15 Down 7

no one on Nov 6, 2017 at 5:25 pm

geraldine, if i recall you are from Pelly or Mayo ytg Carmacks did a very shiddy job of clearing the highways mid Oct. Many accidents and trucks spun out on the hills. On my daily job from Whse to Minto from Steve's place north, I counted 20 vehicles in the ditch, ytg Carmacks did not get clear the roads after a week! Countless trucks spun out on coal mine Tatchun RCMP hill. This area is your homelands why blame Whse for doing their job and your area is not able to.

Up 19 Down 3

What? on Nov 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

RCMP van collides with Jetta at intersection in P.C. (think it was the beginning of this summer) by Super A.
RCMP travelling above highway speed with 3-4 unbuckled officers in the back. One broke his arm during the collision and went unconcious

Yeah, seriously, no problems there at all!

Up 28 Down 3

north_of_60 on Nov 6, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Why does the government responsible for the intersection of the South Access and the Alaska Hwy continue to make excuses for not upgrading the signals to provide left turn arrows? There's no excuse for their procrastination.

Up 13 Down 14

Josey Wales on Nov 6, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Ummm...Sarah, liberals or the media you say?
Was not aware there was a difference, typically media are liberal or socialist sycophants that loathe individual freedoms, love identity politics and often live in a fantasy land of illusion encouraging “group think & cult like chanting.
I get your valid points, but factual based arguments are so outta fashion.
Irrational emotional hysteria has replaced it in these SJW time we live in.

Up 17 Down 8

ProScience Greenie on Nov 6, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Safety? How about getting the police and bylaw to start handing out tickets to all the idiot drivers out there that are the number one road hazard. Then maybe look at some road upgrades.

And the work at the Cutoff was completely over the top, costing way too much money and with an end result of no real change. In fact it might be more dangerous now than before. You just know that the planned work on the AK Hwy near the Chalet would be just as poorly designed and overpriced.

Up 11 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Nov 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm

“The department is crunching the numbers; the data is there,” he said. “It’s not the most critical area.” But one fatality and it will be vaulted to the top priority position- depending on who gets killed. Prevention will always be better than statements of sympathy for another's loss.

Up 49 Down 6

Sarah on Nov 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Seriously can reporters stop calling it a $200 million project? That $200 million project was to occur over a timeframe of 20 years, and $10 million a year on areas of the highway with safety concerns is a drop in the bucket of our budget. 20 years - with the areas of most concern to be addressed first. STOP calling it a waste of money or a $200 million project. Rather, it was a study undertaken to find out which areas would be priority for safety, to undertake over 20 years. This does not seem unreasonable, as it is being painted by the Liberals or by the media.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.