Vernon bypass sought

Coun. Bob Spiers told his colleagues Monday that a bypass around Vernon is needed and he is suggesting the west side of Okanagan Lake

One politician insists an alternate route must be found before Vernon is paralyzed by permanent grid-lock.

Coun. Bob Spiers told his colleagues Monday that a bypass around Vernon is needed and he is suggesting the west side of Okanagan Lake.

“It could be a potential long-term bypass,” he said of the option which could see traffic not needing to stop in Vernon diverted off Highway 97 altogether.

The options for the west side of Okanagan Lake could include the existing Westside Road or a new high-elevation road from the Okanagan Connector, near Peachland, to Highway 97, near O’Keefe Ranch.

Spiers says he is increasingly concerned about traffic volume in Vernon.

“We are getting more and more traffic right through town. The truckers would prefer not to come right through town.”

A long-standing concern is that a large truck could go out of control on Hospital Hill and careen  into downtown Vernon, placing residents at serious risk.

While the west side of Okanagan Lake is outside of Vernon’s jurisdiction, Spiers says such a transportation corridor should be supported in the city’s official community plan and the provincial government should be made aware of the concept.

The issue of an alternate route has been on the backburner since 2008 when a majority of then-council voted to shelve a proposed western bypass, which would have gone through Mission Hill, Okanagan Landing and Bella Vista neighbourhoods before linking back up with the highway at Swan Lake.

Instead, the city decided to focus on long-term traffic issues through aggressive transportation demand management, such as transit, walking and bicycling.

Spiers, who was not on council in 2008, believes scrapping the western bypass was a mistake.

“If we had kept it in the plan, it still would be possible,” he said.