West Kelowna  

Ministry prioritizing new interchanges on Highway 97 in West Kelowna

Overpasses close to reality

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is prioritizing several projects within West Kelowna as part of a much larger regional transportation strategy.

The Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy is a 20-year plan incorporating several transportation improvements designed to move people and goods through the Okanagan more efficiently.

The strategy, according to James Donnelly, senior transportation engineer with Urban Systems, replaces the Central Okanagan Planning Strategy which focused on a high-speed freeway throughout the Okanagan.

"Those looked at bypasses through Kelowna and West Kelowna and a second crossing. None of those are recommended here," Donnelly said during a presentation Tuesday to West Kelowna council.

He says those ideas are not aligned with new ideals of promoting growth and development along the highway corridor and through large urban centres such as downtown Westbank.

Several projects are on the table encompassing improvements along the Highway 97 corridor, transit and active transportation.

Donnelly says the top of the list of projects planned for West Kelowna are the long-awaited interchanges at Boucherie and Westlake roads.

The province is presently looking at detailed designs for both projects, however as Mayor Gord Milsom pointed out no timelines have yet been attached to either.

"It's encouraging," says Milsom.

"We are still competing for money with the Lower Mainland. We will do our best to continue to advocate."

He says hopefully these will be done sooner rather than later.

The same goes for elimination of the downtown Westbank couplet which Donnelly confirms "is doable."

He says removal of the couplet would include returning Dobbin to a two way highway and turning Main Street back into a local road.

"This is designed to support growth and development in the downtown area," says Donnelly.

He says it will be a catalyst for growth but adds it won't "magically" solve any transportation issues.

That project appears to be further down the road.

So too does work on the intersections at Bartley, Ross and Daimler which he believes won't be done until the two interchanges to the east are complete.

Another project the province is looking at in the nearer term is improvements to the transit system by adding more routes to take people directly from West Kelowna into downtown Kelowna.

These would include potential routes from the Boucherie and Shannon Lake areas.

Presently, only the 97 runs from the Westside into Kelowna requiring riders to take a regional route and transfer onto the 97.

"I'm happy to hear a commitment to transit improvements to increase ridership," says Coun. Stephen Johnston.

"I don't think ridership will increase until service does."

There are also discussions taking place to potentially add shoulder bus lanes into Kelowna which would require turning the pedestrian walkway into a third lane and using a cantilever system to accommodate a pedestrian walkway.

Active transportation priorities include the Westside Trail envisioned to run from Peachland to the bridge.

Infrastructure planning is currently being done on the couplet removal and Westside Trail.

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