Robert Service Way in Whitehorse could reopen Monday, city says

A landslide on April 8 prompted the city to close Robert Service Way, one of the main arteries into the city's downtown. The city is planning to reopen the road on Monday if all goes well. (City of Whitehorse  - image credit)
A landslide on April 8 prompted the city to close Robert Service Way, one of the main arteries into the city's downtown. The city is planning to reopen the road on Monday if all goes well. (City of Whitehorse - image credit)

The City of Whitehorse is aiming to reopen Robert Service Way to traffic as early as Monday.

"This is exciting for us at the City of Whitehorse, and we think it'll be exciting as well for our citizens who have been waiting to have the road reopened," said Mayor Laura Cabott at a news conference on Thursday.

The roadway has been closed for a little over a month, since a landslide spilled rocks, mud and sand onto the pavement. Work has been ongoing since then to clear the road of debris and reduce the risk of another destructive slide.

Robert Service Way is one of the main access routes into the city's downtown, and the road closure has caused delays for commuters and disruptions to the city's transit service.

The reopening on Monday is not a certainty. Cabott said the city will continue to monitor the escarpment in the coming days and confirm on Sunday whether it's safe. She said the city will then send out notifications on social media and through its website about the reopening.

"This area of the escarpment is continuing to stabilize, which we're very pleased [about]. And while we haven't been able to eliminate all the risk, we believe we have reduced the risk enough to temporarily reopen Robert Service Way," Cabott said.

To start, the road would be open only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. That's to ensure that city staff can continue to monitor the escarpment and respond quickly if things were to suddenly change.

Trails in the area will remain closed for now.

Risk 'not totally eliminated, but it's mitigated'

Last month the city hired a contractor to excavate an unstable part of the escarpment in the area of the landslide. The idea was to remove debris that seemed likely to come spilling down at any moment.

Tracy Allen, the city's director of infrastructure and operations, said that about 4,000 cubic metres of material was removed. Some of that will be used to build a ditch and berm along the roadway.

Maria Tobin/CBC
Maria Tobin/CBC

"We feel the risk has been mitigated. That, along with the berm and the jersey barriers, we've mitigated the risk. It's not totally eliminated, but it's mitigated," Allen said.

Cabott said city engineers have also seen less seepage and sloughing in that portion of the escarpment in recent days.

The mayor said there shouldn't be any need for traffic signals or flaggers once the road reopens, though she also said the situation is "dynamic," and things could change while monitoring continues.

She also said that the altered transit routes will remain in place for now. That's to avoid having to suddenly change things again if the road were to again be closed.

"We'll continue to provide updates as they're available and look forward to — fingers crossed — sharing some good news on on Sunday."