Plans for Alaska Highway work in Whitehorse flawed, says resident

A longtime resident of Whitehorse's Hillcrest neighbourhood says the Yukon government should postpone its Alaska Highway reconstruction project near the airport.

Controversy around stretch of highway near Whitehorse airport

Longtime Hillcrest neighbourhood resident Jim Gilpin says upgrades to the Alaska Highway near the Whitehorse airport are flawed. (Dave Croft/CBC News )

A longtime resident of Whitehorse's Hillcrest neighbourhood says the Yukon government should postpone its Alaska Highway reconstruction project near the city's airport.

More than 20 individuals and groups have filed critical comments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB), calling for changes to the plans for the $12-million project which is set to roll out in three phases over the next 10 years. The YESAB public comment period closed this week.

Whitehorse resident Jim Gilpin says the plans are flawed and need to be reconsidered.

He's particularly concerned about plans to close the north access to the airport leaving just the southern entrance. He says it doesn't make any sense and will cause congestion. 

A map laying out the third and final phase of the Alaska Highway upgrades set to begin in 2022. (YESAB)

"About three quarters of the traffic leaving the airport turns right and heads north on the highway," said Gilpin.

"And certainly the transit buses, they run parallel to the highway on the service road and then exit at the north end."

Other people are concerned the upgrade plans don't do enough for pedestrians and cyclists.

Increase speed, tear down maintenance shop

According to Gilpin, the first thing to do for this project is tear down a large aviation maintenance shop that sits right next to the highway. He says that would open up other options for the new configuration for the highway.

"Which [the Department of] Highways recognizes needs to be moved, but they haven't acknowledged that that is the first and foremost thing that ought to be done prior to any design and development of the area of the highway north of Burns Road," Gilpin said

He points to government figures indicating the Alaska Highway is busier to the north and south of the reconstruction area because much of the highway traffic is heading downtown.

Gilpin says the government should also change the speed limit in the area. He says it's set for 60 km/h, but the government is building a four-lane highway designed for at least 80 km/h.

The government's plans for the reconstruction are currently before the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board for review.

A spokesperson for the Highways department, Oshea Jephson, said the north entrance to the airport is being closed to make way for a continuous pedestrian and cyclist path. He said it's also in the way of other work.

"As we remove the airport maintenance facility, we need the space to be able to do that safely which involves closing the Norseman Road access," said Jephson.

Jephson said he cannot comment on Gilpin's suggestion that the maintenance shop be removed first. He said he also cannot comment on Gilpin's opinion that building a four-lane highway through the area will encourage people to drive faster than the 60 km/h limit.


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