City promises short-term fixes, long-term action over musher crossing
Action will be taken to improve safety at a crossing where a dog musher was badly hurt in a collision last month, the City of Yellowknife says.
Richard Beck and his dog team collided with a truck on December 13 as they tried to cross Kam Lake Road between Kam Lake and Grace Lake – a crossing mushers described as notoriously dangerous.
“It’s the worst nightmare,” musher Jo Kelly said at the time. Kelly had arrived 15 minutes after the accident to discover Beck’s snow machine under a truck.
“It’s a terrible crossing,” she said. “I’ve had close calls there. I’m sure everyone has.”
The bottom end of Kam Lake Road winds between two lakes as it reaches the relatively new Grace Lake residential development, then extends to a gravel pit and industrial area that mark the southern edge of the city.
The bend of the road, and an incline mushers must ascend to cross between the lakes, conspire to create a hazardous lack of visibility.
This week, city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said short-term measures were being taken to ensure drivers know the crossing exists and slow down.
“We’ve worked with Northland Utilities to make sure there’s additional lighting on the power poles in the area. We have some signage that we’re changing – 30 km/h mandatory speed signs are going up there, where previously we had 30 km/h suggested speeds,” Bassi-Kellett told Cabin Radio.
“We’re going to be moving the trail crossing signs so they’re well in advance of the actual crossing. There’s a bit of a blind corner there so we want to make sure people are well aware as they come to it.
“And we’re going to have prominent signs – like some of the ones we put out on lakes – to show this is a dog sled crossing, so watch out for people that are going to be crossing back and forth.”
Those signs will replace a large, temporary sign created by the local mushing community that now stands on the north side of the crossing.
Grant Beck, Richard’s brother, worked with the city after Richard’s accident on ways to make the crossing safer.
While signs and lighting are quick fixes, Grant hopes a culvert that passes beneath Kam Lake Road can provide a longer-term solution.
The culvert was installed by the city precisely to avoid the problem of mushers having to cross the road above it, but Bassi-Kellett said the water level had risen sufficiently in recent years that the culvert no longer freezes adequately.
“It was used for a couple of years and it worked fine. We didn’t have to go on the street,” Grant said. “But the higher water table has allowed water to run through the culvert so it stays open all winter.”
He argues a baffle plate would stop the flow of water through the culvert and allow it to freeze again. Bassi-Kellett said city engineers would explore options.
“We’ve had a number of conversations on this. In the longer term, we really want to see what we can do to make that underpass usable again,” she said.
Grant said his brother is “on the mend” after December’s accident, in which he was reported to have broken several ribs and a leg.
“Some days he’s sore, of course, because he had a bad accident, but his spirits are high,” he said.
“We were really sad when we heard about the accident. Richard is one of our own here at the city,” said Bassi-Kellett.
“We’re going to continue talking to mushers and we’re going to monitor to see what else we can do.”