Yellowknifers faced delays of 30 minutes or more on the opening morning of full closure for the city’s only road worth talking about.

Franklin Avenue is entirely closed between Forrest Drive and Reservoir Road, which requires four lanes of traffic to file down to two for a winding detour through residential roads.

The road ordinarily sustains Yellowknife’s only real commuter route, between the city’s downtown and areas like Range Lake, Kam Lake, and Stanton Hospital.

Construction on Franklin Avenue will keep the road fully closed for at least three weeks, before a summer of further lane closures.

‘Start biking’

“I live on Forrest Park. It took me seven minutes just to pull out onto Forrest Drive,” resident Trevor Smith told Cabin Radio. “And that’s because somebody was kind enough to let me in.

“It’s bad. Really bad. It took me 20 minutes to get from my house to the fire hall this morning.”

Other residents reported commutes approaching an hour in length as they tried to cross a city in which usual morning traffic barely merits mention. Standard Yellowknife traffic would result in journey times of at most 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the one alternative route – looping around Frame Lake and Jackfish Lake via Old Airport Road – was itself backed up as residents tried to beat the Franklin closure.

Lines of traffic spilled back from downtown past the Chateau Nova hotel, with at least one driver witnessed taking a desperate – and illegal – off-road plunge down a berm and across property to get from the highway to a clearer downtown street.

“Time for people to start biking and walking,” Dinah Elliott posted to the Cabin’s Facebook page, a view seconded by Ethan Mackenzie.

“To the people driving a vehicle all by themselves every day in the summer and want to complain about the additional time to your morning commute – buy a bicycle,” he wrote.

One resident wrote to city councillor Julian Morse requesting that the City make public transit free during construction.

“The traffic is terrible and the roads are backed up. I’ve been sitting on the bus for over 20 minutes and I’m not even halfway to work,” the resident wrote.

“Perhaps free transit would help to attract people to use the bus and therefore would eliminate the traffic madness?”