Yukon’s Department of Highways and Public Works has plans to improve safety along the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse, including a roundabout at Robert Service Way.
That specific proposal is one that Brian Crist, director of engineering, acknowledges has caught the public’s attention.
“It might seem a little odd to folks travelling along the Alaska Highway to come up to a roundabout because there’s no others on the Alaska Highway,” Crist said.
Currently, the Alaska Highway meets Robert Service Way with lights and an intersection. It’s the default construction design along the highway, Crist said.
“However, what we know about that particular intersection is it’s notoriously dangerous — [there] has been a number of accidents and some fatalities,” he said.
“And what we know [is] drivers tend to speed through that intersection. And there’s some inattentiveness as well.”
Crist said many crashes involve drivers making left turns. He believes that a roundabout could be a solution because it eliminates left turns and features fewer “collision points” compared to an intersection.
He also said roundabouts require approaching vehicles to slow down and posited they do a better job at that compared to intersections. A conceptual drawing of the roundabout says the entry approach speed would be 60 kilometres per hour.
“The more we’ve looked at this intersection, the more we’ve thought … maybe a roundabout could work here. And it’s a little diversion from what you typically see on a highway. But if it makes sense, then we should look at it,” Crist said.
A roundabout would also cut down on vehicle idling and thus reduce tailpipe emissions, making them a better option for the environment, he added.
However, Crist said they have to consider whether there’s enough land to build a roundabout suitable for highway traffic, environmental impacts, traffic flow and the need to accommodate wide loads.
As well, the public needs to be consulted.
“We want the conversation to happen and to be clear again, we haven’t decided on this,” Crist said, adding that changes to the intersection wouldn’t happen until 2023.
Crist said highway upgrades are also meant to “eliminate non-standard and unsafe accesses onto and off the highway,” doing so by rebuilding intersections and connecting service roads.
He said public consultation took place with residents and businesses in August and September, along with an open house.
The public will get another chance to provide feedback when plans are reviewed by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.
So far, Crist said public feedback has resulted in a few design changes after the department heard concerns about the locations of intersections near Yukon Yamaha as well as Squatters Road.
The department also heard from cyclists, who asked for a multi-use trail to be extended from Robert Service Way to Miles Canyon. Crist said that request is something they are “looking at very seriously.”
“So this is consistent with our approach to multi-purpose trails. We do like to include them wherever we can and we work with the City of Whitehorse to align whatever we’re going to install with their trail plan,” he said.