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Highway 97 on track for 2013
Steady progress is being made on a new transportation route in the Okanagan.
Construction of realignment of Highway 97 between Oyama and Winfield has reached the halfway mark.
“It’s a milestone project that has been talked about for a long time,” said Blair Lekstrom, transportation minister.
Work began on the nine-kilometre stretch in May 2011 and it’s expected to be completed in the summer of 2013.
The new route will replace the current highway along Wood Lake, which has been the scene of numerous motor vehicle accidents, including fatalities, over the years.
“It will increase safety for the travelling public and the movement of goods and services,” said Lekstrom.
“This is a busy corridor and it gets busier each and every month and each and every year.”
Moving traffic away from Wood Lake has been a major priority for the District of Lake Country.
“We started lobbying based on safety, not just for traffic but for fish and water quality imperiled by hazardous material trucks going by,” said Mayor James Baker.
The total price tag is $77.9 million with the funds coming from Victoria and Ottawa.
“It’s one of the biggest infrastructure projects happening outside of the Lower Mainland right now,” said Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA.
As part of the work, two steel pipes that will serve as underpasses for access to orchards and recreational areas have been installed.
More than one million cubic metres of rock and soil have been excavated on the site so far.
Parts of the highway provide panoramic views of Wood and Kalamalka lakes, as well as orchards and the tree-covered hillsides.
Ron Cannan, Kelowna-Lake Country MP, has suggested a lookout may be needed.
“There will be a lot of rubber-neckers going both ways,” he said of motorists trying to take in the sights.