Project manager Murray Tekano and Lindsay Stringer of the Ministry of Transportation discuss options for Highway 97 at an open house in Lake Country Monday.—Image credit: Alistair Waters

Project manager Murray Tekano and Lindsay Stringer of the Ministry of Transportation discuss options for Highway 97 at an open house in Lake Country Monday.—Image credit: Alistair Waters

Study shows Okanagan Lake crossing options

Second bridge should be located just north of downtown Kelowna, says transportation ministry.

A provincial study looking at the future of Highway 97 through the Central Okanagan has narrowed the location of a possible future second crossing of Okanagan Lake to just north of downtown Kelowna.

Four landing spots on the Kelowna side of of the lake—one at the foot of Knox Mountain, one where the existing Tolko mill is located, one at Manhattan Point and one just south of the mill near Rotary Marshes—are identified as possible options according to Ministry of Transportation’s planning study. The study, which has been underway for the last year, is scheduled to wrap up by the end of 2017. No timelines or costs have been given for a second crossing project.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Murray Tekano, project manager for the study.

Because only four per cent of traffic currently crossing the lake passes through the area without stopping, crossing routes to the south and north of Kelowna that would feed into bypass routes have been dropped as possible options, he said.

Tekano did say information gathering has shown there is much more interest in a second crossing among the public, politicians and groups on the Westside than there is on the Kelowna side.

As for where a second crossing would land on the west side of the lake, that is less clear.

The study’s newest information, presented in Lake Country Monday and set to be available to the public at an open house this afternoon in Kelowna, shows a possible Westside landing somewhere along a six kilometre-stretch running from south of Old Ferry Wharf Road to north of Bear Creek Provincial Park. A connection route to the existing highway would then have to be determined.

On the Kelowna side, all four approaches to a second bridge would impact existing residential and commercial development in the city parts of the North End. They would all connect to the existing Clement Avenue downtown bypass, just east of Gordon Drive, with one veering to the north and skirting Knox Mountain.

The three others would continue on Clement, with one veering off at Richter Street to cross where the mill is currently located, while the other two routes would continue along Clement with one cutting through the Manhattan Point neighbourhood and the other crossing just north of Rotary Marshes.

In addition to the second crossing, the study is also looking at the highway from Westbank to just south of Vernon. The Peachland area was originally part of the study but was removed because a separate study is being conducted there to look at possible realigning of the highway in the area.

In Westbank, the study looks at replacing the existing Highway 97 couplet through the area with an improved and widened Dobbin Road only, as well as limiting access to Highway 97 in other parts between Westbank and the Bennett Bridge. New overpasses and exchanges could be built at key intersections to allow traffic to cross the highway. It also floats the idea of a possible bypass route north of the existing highway, part of which would be dependent on where a second crossing would land on the Westside.

Limited access to the existing highway is also contemplated on the Kelowna side, with various options for crossing the highway including overpasses or interchanges at key intersections, such as Gordon Drive, Dilworth, Highway 33, McCurdy, Sexsmith John Hindle Drive and Airport Way. One option shows and elevated highway between the bridge and Spall Road, another a possible tunnel along part of that stretch.

“We want to show the public that we have looked at everything,” said Tekano. “We are not picking favourites.”

In Lake Country possible interchanges could be built at Commonwealth Road Janet Road, Okanagan Centre East road and Oceola Road.

Last week, the ministry said its planning shows that by 2040 the existing Bennett Bridge will reach capacity, traffic lights along the route will have lengthy wait times and a trip between Peachland and Lake Country will take nearly 30 minutes longer than it does now.

Today’s open house is scheduled to run from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ramada Hotel in Kelowna. A third open house will be held in West Kelowna on Thursday at the Westbank Lions Community Hall from 3:30 p.m.to 7 p.m.