Pedestrian culvert at north end of airport to cross Alaska Highway

The Alaska Highway between Hillcrest and the airport is undergoing a redesign.

A key need in this redesign is to identify a core trail network and connect it to a culvert so walkers can cross under the highway safely and easily. This above-the-airport map uses green for Kwanlin Dun First Nations lands and dark purple for Ta'an Kwäch'än Council lands; light purple are lands that the City has zoned as FP-future planning.

The culvert would be at the red dot by the Tank Farm area. Both the current City Official Community Plan (OCP) review and the highways department are taking a 20-year viewpoint. So should we, the public. The culvert needs to be built as an integral component of the highway redesign because once we rebuild the highway there will be no appetite to redo it for many years. Clearly the area will have many more people living here in 20 years.

It's disconcerting to see that the Range Road intersection work has extended all the way South past the ARC. One place to stay in the know and to give feedback is Highway's project site

The yellow dashed line is a suggested Whitehorse above-the-airport–downtown trail network.

The culvert would be an obvious crossing to walkers who wish to cross the highway. The best way of ensuring this is by creating a trail network that directs everyone to the culvert and to publicize it and the many local destinations here.

The City has a very direct role in making this a great walking area by establishing the trail network. The suggested network routing essentially follows existing major trails. Some pieces are even paved. The network needs to be well marked, easily followed, and wide enough for intended uses. Match this culvert with the Baxter’s Gulch trail down the ill-named Spook Creek and many more people would walk and bike. (Clearly this network can be expanded as the City finishes the various area trail plans.)

As undeveloped parcels of land start to be considered for development, they would naturally be connected to this network. Often, trails already exist in these undeveloped parcels.

To think about

Why not just cross at traffic lights? Why a culvert?

Most road crossing in the city have fast pedestrian walk signals. Generally, you only get part way across before the light changes. Highway crossings will have multiple turning lanes to deal with and likely a feeder road; will pedestrians get enough time to almost cross the road?

I'm not a fan of waiting until I think I'm safe, then dashing across the highway. This has been our reality for decades, whether below the Salvation Army's ARC, or at Burns Road or Hillcrest Drive. I hope when this upgrade is done that we are still not forced to continue this.

What if a culvert is too expensive?

Slowing cars down is the quickest route to safer streets

"if you are hit by a car going at 40 km/h, then you have a 30-per-cent likelihood of dying if you’re a cyclist or a pedestrian. “But if you are hit by a car moving at 30 km/h, your likelihood of dying is reduced to 10 per cent – so that’s pretty significant,"

The cheapest solution for safety without a culvert would be to have us continue to look both ways and dash, but have speed limit at 30 going by the culvert site, and safety islands.

Money could also come from Yukon Government supports territorial sports, recreation in that as walking is a major form of recreation, and walkers are likely the largest recreational activity group, then making this area a walkable area would be a smart move.

Who are the major players in the area

Land owners, governments


Walkers, runners, baby strollers, kick sledders will all be vying for space in the network. And a successful network will see much more use. E-bikes? E-scooters? In short, lots of others will be using these trails.

For simplicity's sake, this page refers mostly to walkers. There are generally organized groups that look after other points of view. More dialogue is needed when we have overlapping major trail use.

Proposed Bicycle Network All Ages and Abilities (AAA) and non-AAA)

For instance, the City and bike users have built a Bike Network Plan (BNP) incorporating trails like the Waterfront Trail and the Millennium Trail among others. At a glance, the routes generally follow roads. That network would come through the culvert and go onto the Airport Perimeter Trail.

The BNP notes that bikers feels unsafe sharing the road with vehicles driving over 30 km/hr. Likewise walkers feel unsafe with speeding bikes. Looking at a major network trail will be a good opportunity to talk about a plan.

Here's my take: Slow down as these are shared use paths. Saying nothing is scary to walkers! Ring a bell, say the word "bell" or "bike" when still away from pedestrians. Yelling out "Left" or "On your right" is confusing to a walker. Pass on the left, not the right.

Motorized? For the purposes of discussion around a culvert, I think that the airport escarpment is already a non-motorized area. It is very fragile as we all know.


Many area residents are challenged for recreational opportunities. A City goal is a 5-minute walk to significant greenspace. The more destinations are identified and made known, the more people will use the network, both for recreation and active transportation. The network of trails will itself become a destination, leading to more use of the route downtown through the culvert.

A network of accessible trails

The City has been building paved trails around the city. The culvert will be paved, linking to the partly paved Airport Perimeter Trail; parts of trails in the above-the-airport neighbourhoods have also been paved; the Tank Farm will likely have paved trails for some major corridors.

Connecting these pieces will make life easier for people in wheelchairs, family groups with little kids who won't pay a lot of attention to trail traffic, seniors and others who've become mobility challenged. The destination could easily be a set of lookouts over the escarpment. Thinking ahead and building adequate parking around the culvert will ensure that at least parts of this network is accessible to those who must drive to get here. Think groups from Copper Ridge, Whistle Bend, .....

Walking neighbourhoods A walking neighbourhood is a safe and welcoming place to be a pedestrian. Residents have easy access to streets with plantings and a variety of green spaces - from community gardens and allotments, to pocket parks and city farms. Networks of green walking routes connect people from their doorsteps to the places they want to go. UK-based Rambler's initiative but unless we see neighbourhoods as walley villages that don't want stranger in their woods.....

It is important to note that where possible, paved trails need unpaved companion paths. Why? Paving is hard on feet. People using walking poles find paved paths hard on joints.

Size and feel of culvert?

The culvert has to feel safe. It needs to be bright and wide. For some people it will be a tough sell and they might go to the traffic lights. More use will make the culvert safer. We need to get some picture, some examples.

Forest has some thoughts on this.

Highways has a draft of a quick look. Pretty basic quick look at costing and not really at best location.

Mandeep Sidhu has a sketch on the Hillcrest facebook page suggesting an underpass at the hotels. Good for those going to the airport, but going downtown means still walking alongside the highway. Also, for many neighbourhoods means a long walk out of the way to go downtown. He acknowledges Salvation Army area a better place for most of the other neighbourhoods, although this isn't on the sketch.

Dan Bader found this neat underpass

Whitehorse, a growing community

City Limits, Urban Containment Boundary, DRAFT

What is our community vision — what about climate change? Whitehorse is growing. We're already a very spread-out city (cyan line). The Urban Containment Boundary (red line) is the area the City can grow in without adding to water and sewer systems. If we don't want to use up all our greenspace, then we should build inside this UCB. We need denser development, less urban sprawl — more walking, less driving. One thing to help keep us inside the UCB would be the proposed trail network/culvert!

This would be us:  The resulting densities are also too low to sustain high-frequency public transit. Line from an interesting article. Talks about how 'mundane road regulations embed automobile supremacy into federal, state, and local law'.

The City is always looking ahead. A couple of long-range planning final reports are available. The question is: Do we want Whitehorse to keep spreading out? If we build a bridge to Long Lake, then the next people will want their country acerage and Whitehorse will sprawl all over the map on that side of the river. Let's keep some of the area as 'wilderness' for our kid's kids!

This time lapse of growth, 1984- 2016, is an interesting way to show recent growth. Close the side panel, use the arrows at the bottom to start and stop the animation. Move around by dragging the picture. This is 35 years of growth. Look around. You can also just click on a year.