For some students attending the elementary school in Okanagan Falls, going to school involves crossing Highway 97. Concerns have been raised about a nearby crossing. (Black Press file photo)

Concerns raised about highway crossings in Okanagan Falls

RDOS director says safety issues have been raised about pedestrian crossings

A director on the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is concerned about pedestrians crossing Highway 97 in Okanagan Falls.

“Highway 97 is a real problem,” said Ron Obirek, director for Electoral Area D, which includes Okanagan Falls. “Crossing the highway is treacherous in every spot.”

Speaking at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen meeting on Aug. 15, Obirek said a crossing at 10th Avenue and Highway 97, used by school children, is hazardous.

He said Rose Mah, the school crossing guard who has worked at this intersection near Okanagan Falls Elementary School for over 30 years, has discussed safety concerns about this intersection with him.

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He added that the school crossing is not the only bad highway crossing in Okanagan Falls.

A crossing at the bridge, just past Waterman Hill, is another hazard area, he said. This crossing is used by people on the KVR trail. Traffic coming off the hill and over the bridge is moving fast at this area.

He said recently, two cyclists crossing at this spot had an accident after a large truck moved past too quickly. While there were no serious injuries, it could have been much worse if there had been other vehicles on the highway at the time.

In addition, he said the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Main Street in Okanagan Falls is unsafe, as traffic from the north and east have stop signs, traffic from the west has a yield sign and traffic from the south does not have a sign in place.

He has raised his safety concerns with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff in the past.

“What we have is a known issue,” he said.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says the school crossing at 10th Avenue and Highway 97 in Okanagan Falls is safe.

“Safety for all road users is our top priority, and this crosswalk provides appropriate safety for people crossing this 50 km/h section of Highway 97 in Okanagan Falls,” a ministry statement reads.

“The crossing is equipped with pedestrian activated flashing lights to stop traffic, and the pavement markings at this location have been inspected to ensure they are visible and in good condition.”

While there is a crosswalk with flashing lights in Okanagan Falls, it is near the IGA store, not at the school crossing.

Obirek has suggested slower speed limits through Okanagan Falls and a bypass around the community, similar to bypasses in place in Peachland and Keremeos.

He said these two measures would both make the community safer for pedestrians.

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