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Province eyes additional ‘transit-only’ lane for Kelowna’s W.R. Bennett Bridge: Study

Council gets look at Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Study
William R. Bennett Bridge across Okanagan Lake. (Black Press file photo)

Capacity improvements to W.R. Bennett Bridge and a focus on regional transit and active transportation will be part of moving people in the Central Okanagan in the future.

A delegation from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) presented the Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Study to Kelowna council at its March 13 meeting. It’s the province’s 20-year vision for transportation needs in the Okanagan Valley. That vision does not include a second crossing over the lake.

However, on the list of dozens of potential projects is a sixth lane on the bridge dedicated to transit. Council heard that option is more favourable than a countervailing lane, where traffic would change directions during the morning and evening commutes.

Coun. Luke Stack suggested some type of architectural feature could be added to the new lane to enhance the bridge.

“It could become an iconic item for our valley,” he added.

The potential of light rail transit (LRT) along Highway 97 was raised. Council also heard that although the highway is seen as the “spine for transit,” LRT is not currently a consideration.

Other major projects include the removal of the Highway 97 couplet in West Kelowna, as well as improvements to the Boucherie and Westlake interchanges.

The province also listed the Clement Avenue extension, Commonwealth Road, and improvements to Highway 97 at Crystal Waters Road in Lake Country as priorities.

Potential transit enhancements include more routes between Kelowna and the westside, regional mobility hubs in Peachland, Westbank, Rutland, and Lake Country, as well as urban core and neighbourhood hubs in several communities throughout Kelowna.

“This is a good news story for transit going forward,” said Coun. Gord Lovegrove.

Several active transportation projects were also identified in the study. The Westside Trail (West Kelowna to Peachland), overpasses on Highway 97 at Brown and Daimler roads in West Kelowna, an Airport Way interchange, and the Okanagan Rail Trail.

Council will review the study and send a letter to the province outlining potential changes and future recommendations.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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