Whitehorse debates new $400,000 commuter trail

As Whitehorse faces increasing traffic jams, a neighbourhood organization proposes to get more people walking to the city centre

'Wilderness city' tries to encourage more commuters to walk or bicycle to work

The city of Whitehorse is expanding into new suburbs as dozens of homes are built outside the city centre.  

In the cold winters of Yukon it’s easy to understand why people would drive 15 minutes into town.

But the city is seeing increasing traffic jams.

Community associations say the solution is to get more people cycling and walking, even in the cold temperatures.

The Hillcrest Community Association is proposing a $400,000 commuter path that would run parallel to the Alaska Highway.

Whitehorse is built in a lowland area and the path would provide a shortcut to the highland neighbourhoods of Hillcrest, Granger and Copper Ridge.

The trail would connect the city’s growing subdivisions to an existing trail that circumvents the Whitehorse airport and into the city centre.

The shortcut could save commuters time and reduce traffic jams.

While the path into downtown might be steep at times --- especially on a set of stairs leading to Black Street –  the association believes it would be a good long-term investment in city planning.

The new path would also provide access to winter cyclists who in Whitehorse, are often outfitted with large fat-tire bicycles and so-called "moose antlers": large mittens mounted on the bikes' handlebars.

The community association is asking the city to pay one quarter of the total cost of the new trail.    

The group has requested most of the funding from the territory's department of Highways and Public Works and Community Development Fund.

City engineer, Wayne Tuck says the funds could come from a budget amendment or the Federal Gas Tax.

Whitehorse city councillor Betty Irwin says she worries about collisions in the early morning hours. She would like to see a crossing light installed where the path meets the highway.

"I still think this is rather dangerous for pedestrians," she says.

Council will vote on the request at next week's meeting.

Meanwhile Whitehorse has already approved an expansion of the Robert Campbell bridge to the neighbourhood of Riverdale to promote cycling.

Mayor of Whitehorse Dan Curtis has also begun to take public transit to work to reduce traffic jams.

He says the city of Whitehorse is managing growth and that means encouraging more people to walk and cycle to work.