Senior Project Manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rampaul Dulay, spoke to the regional district Environment and Infrastructure Committee about plans for a passing lane on Highway 97 near McIntyre Bluff at the March 15 RDOS board meeting.
Dulay told the committee that recent growth in the Okanagan was starting to challenge highway systems in the area. An open house outlining the project, which took place in January, received mostly positive feedback from area residents.
“We do not yet have a budget for construction, but are able to move ahead with environmental approvals, design work and property acquisition,” Dulay told the committee.
A two kilometre stretch of Highway 97, northbound from the McIntyre Creek bridge will be widened to four lanes, with paved shoulders. Dulay pointed out that there are no passing lanes in the 28 kilometre stretch between Deadman’s Lake to just south of Okanagan Falls. Highway studies show that a 15 kilometre interval is better from a safety standpoint. Sixty-four hundred vehicles per day utilized this section of the Highway 97 corridor, with a high of 8,400 in the summer. Sixty -eight per cent of the time, motorists will be following behind other vehicles.
There is no defintite date for start of construction on the ten million dollar project.
Area “D” Director Tom Siddon reminded Dulay of the need to improve the dangerous corner along Vaseaux Lake; Dulay noted the project represented a number of challenges, and was not currently a project on the books. He said that in the near term, an improved warning sign system was being contemplated.
Area “C” Director Allan Patton expressed concerns about the narrowness of McIntyre Creek bridge, and the planned reduction to two lanes at the north end that was proposed to take place on a corner Dulay responded that the bridge would be replaced at some point in the future, and that at the project’s northern limits, too many access needs precluded extending the four laning beyond the present boundary.
Oliver Director Ron Hovanes admitted that the highway between Okanagan Falls and Osoyoos represented an “extreme bottleneck,” commenting that passing lanes helped to reduce frustration levels.
“People just need an opportunity to get by slower traffic,” he said, “it will make for a much more pleasureable commute.”
Dulay told the committee that the area should benefit from up to 70 jobs, lasting up to a year and a half. He expected minor traffic delays of five to 15 minutes during construction, which is not expected to begin this year.