In his time in Central Okanagan politics since 2005, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick has seen the building of the William R. Bennett Bridge, the six-laning of Highway 97, an overpass at the UBC Okanagan campus, among other transportation projects.
He claims, however, that when the NDP took over as provincial leaders in B.C. just over five years ago, the ‘“well has dried up” to build in the Central Okanagan.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced in late February its new three-year budget plan for capital projects, which included $11.5 billion from the province.
On April 19, Letnick, who has championed for greater infrastructure in the Central Okanagan in the past, asked Minister Rob Fleming how much of that budget will go towards much-needed projects in the region.
“There’s a need for an intersection with Highway 97 at Crystal Waters that’s safe,” said Letnick. “There is a need for a better intersection at Glenmore and Beaver Lake roads and Highway 97. There is a need for medians to be finished between Kelowna and Lake Country.”
Fleming said that these are all being addressed in the Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy that is in the works, and that the full report should be available this summer.
“It will also issue a user-friendly condensed report that would probably be more interesting to his constituents, and it will be downloadable on the website,” he said, adding that final numbers for capital transportation projects in the budget have not yet been finalized.
In the interim, Fleming reminded Letnick that some temporary measures are soon to be put in place to improve road safety in the region, like flashing beacons that alert drivers about road conditions.
Letnick responded in a manner that seemed to imply that he would like to see some more hard numbers.
“$11.5 billion in the next three years in capital, and I didn’t hear one penny in the last answer for the Central Okanagan.
“My advice, more than a question, to the minister is: please reprioritize because it doesn’t look good for us in the Central Okanagan to see all that capital expenditure, and then all of a sudden the money’s gone. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on.”
Fleming ended by saying that his ministry has been working with the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country to determine high-priority initiatives and their costs.