Richard Soberman

Richard Soberman

Workshop rounds up transportation vision

Ministry of Transportation hosts Okanagan Transportation Symposium in Vernon

Traffic volumes are often bumper-to-bumper through parts of the Okanagan, but the green light is being given to a long-term transportation vision.

Politicians and bureaucrats from North Okanagan communities participated in a Ministry of Transportation workshop Tuesday. The goal was to determine where transportation needs to evolve.

“It’s a good process to take a look at what could happen in 20 years and do some visioning,” said Enderby Mayor Dee Wejr, one of the participants.

A primary concern for many communities, particularly along highways 97 and 97A, is the increasing volume of traffic and the ability of a decades-old road structure to keep up with the pressure.

Delays are common at intersections in Vernon and Enderby.

“The movement of vehicles is one of our highest concerns,” said Wejr.

Upgrades to Highway 97 are underway but Wejr isn’t convinced that will be sufficient and a major alignment change may be required in the future.

“We want to envision what will happen in Enderby in 20 years.”

On the table from Coldstream was Highway 6.

“We need to make it safer for drivers and cyclists,” said Craig Broderick, the district’s director of development services.

Planning continues for a new alignment of Highway 6 between Grey and Ricardo roads.

“We have major employers relying on Highway 6 and then you have an intersection like Kalamalka Road. It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Broderick of accidents there.

Beyond the session in Vernon, similar meetings are being held in the Kelowna and Penticton areas.

“We believe transportation is vital in terms of safety and economic development,” said Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA, who is participating in the process.

Besides automobiles, the strategy is considering transit, cycling and rail.

Letnick admits that while there is a need to continue with transportation enhancements, the ability to pay for construction projects remains a challenge.

“We have limited resources and we have to make sure those limited resources are applied in priority sequences throughout the Okanagan,” he said.