Whitehorse partially reopens Robert Service Way

·2 min read
Robert Service Way in Whitehorse partially reopened Monday after a landslide triggered a five-week closure. (Ethan Lang/CBC - image credit)
Robert Service Way in Whitehorse partially reopened Monday after a landslide triggered a five-week closure. (Ethan Lang/CBC - image credit)

Road traffic has resumed on Robert Service Way five weeks after a landslide closed the Whitehorse thoroughfare, but the city is still waiting before fully reopening it.

The road opened to two-lane traffic Monday, and will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The city said it's still monitoring the area for landslide risks, and could close the road again if things change.

Tracy Allen, the city's director of infrastructure and operations, said the city has set up a "slope scanner" across from the cliffs to survey for new and evolving tension cracks. The scanner provides data in real time, she said.

"What we've assessed with the geotechnical engineers is that the risks are low and that they've been mitigated with the measures we have in place," Allen said Monday.

Allen said this spring has been drier than last year's, and landslide risk in the area is low. She said the risk will be negligible once the snow has completely melted and the "freshet" season is over, likely some time in June.

Last year, a similar slide in April prompted the city to close the road until June.

This year, Robert Service Way closed after a landslide from the adjacent clay cliffs covered part of it on April 8. Instability in the cliffs caused the road to remain closed until now.

Submitted by Murray Lundberg
Submitted by Murray Lundberg

Trails in the area are still closed. City spokesperson Oshea Jephson said the city is doing this "out of an abundance of caution."

"Even though we have been able to mitigate the risk, motorists are inherently more protected by their vehicles compared to pedestrians or cyclists," he told CBC in an email.

Cyclists and pedestrians can still use the Rotary Bridge on the Millenium Trail to get downtown.

The city said transit changes that resulted from the landslide on April 8 will stay in place for now.

Allen said the city put lots of work into ensuring the road was safe before reopening.

The city removed about 4,000 cubic metres of material from the cliffs to stabilize a tension crack that formed after April's landslide, Allen said. That material was then used to create a berm — a natural, raised barrier — at the base of the cliff. The city also added a concrete barrier there for additional protection.

"Unfortunately, this isn't the final product," Allen told CBC Monday morning. "I would love it if it was, but there's still going to be a long-term solution needed for the escarpment."

Mayor Laura Cabott told reporters last month that a "mega project," likely costing tens of millions of dollars, is what the city requires to address landslides long-term.