YK administration: No plans to make Highway 4 safer near Niven

Niven Lake area
Road from Niven Lake (left) to downtown Yellowknife.
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Administration with the city of Yellowknife says it’s at a loss to explain why the GNWT isn’t fixing the highway between Niven Gate and the downtown core.

The issue of pedestrian safety along the route was also raised by Yellowknife MLAs in the legislature last week.

Officials say the road is not only overdue for a repair, but also presents serious safety concerns since there is no separation between pedestrians and vehicles.

On Monday afternoon, a discussion regarding safe transit for pedestrians and cyclists was brought forward at City Hall.

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Even though the highway is overseen by the territorial government, councillor Dan Wong says it’s a route that serves Yellowknifers – and safety along it will be called into question even more during busier, warmer months.

“Literally what you do is just stand there, wait for a break in traffic and then run for your life across the road to get home or to get to work and it’s not safe for pedestrians or drivers.

“What we can do now before the snow melts and the foot traffic increases to help people get safely between Niven Gate and Yellowknife, there’s a lot of options out there.

“We’ve heard of a crosswalk talked out, maybe concrete barriers placed along the highway to protect the pedestrians on the shoulder or perhaps a trail completely off the road are just some of the ideas out there.”

Read: Niven Lake To Downtown Yellowknife: Do You Feel Safe? 

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But Dennis Kefalas, the city’s senior administrative officer, says no short term fix is in place since it’s not the city’s infrastructure.

“What we were hoping is that the GNWT would actually put that money in the budget to fix that section of the road,” said Kefalas.

“It appears the GNWT is investing in a lot of other highways for communities of a much smaller size than us and we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

“But original estimates to fix this section of road were somewhere in the $800,000 range so we were at a loss when that wasn’t included in the budget.

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“We’ve been very frank with them from the beginning that if they make every attempt to try and fix that road and if they come up with a solution that seems somewhat feasible, the City would look forward to taking over that road as soon as construction was completed.”

Kefalas suggested that councillors lobby local MLAs to determine why the project wasn’t included in the budget.

But he admits they’d have to make a fairly compelling argument.

“I’ve also heard that [Transportation Minister Tom Beaulieu] wasn’t aware this was a problem,” said Kefalas.

“Well it seems like this is discussed on a regular basis so everyone should be aware of the problem. The most effective solution would be to have a service crossing and the GNWT has told us time and time again that they don’t have service crossings on their highways.”

But rather than getting too engaged in talks of ownership now, Wong says he’d like to see something done in the short term to enhance safety.

“There has to be some kind of urgency here to do something in the meantime because it does continue to put residents at risk,” said Wong.

Councillor Adrian Bell added: “This is an area where we have more and more people using that area to get to and from the downtown which is something we want.

“We’re encouraging active transportation on so many of our strategic objectives and here we have what is not a stretch of highway but it’s a highway in name only because we’ve now built a residential subdivision a couple hundred yards into it.

“We should recognize that we have a problem here.”

Talks of potential short term solutions along the route are expected to resume during next week’s council meeting.

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