Enhancing Highway 97 to four lanes from West Kelowna to Penticton should be a priority, according to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
Directors from the RDOS plan to bring a request that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure investigate a broader transportation strategy for the Okanagan and the twinning Highway 97 gets completed during the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Regional district chair Karla Kozakevich said the idea to bring the issue to UBCM received full board support.
“Anytime we can four-lane is a huge benefit. It gets people moving quicker, if there’s an accident it might take up the one lane, but you can still have flow going with the other three lanes. Of course, it’s a huge benefit, but it’s also very costly to the ministry every time they go to expand the road. We have issues with a lot of the rural roads being in rough condition that I’d like to see money be spent on as well,” she said following the board’s Thursday meeting.
The UBCM convention provides an opportunity for local government delegates to discuss issues and initiatives with cabinet ministers and provincial staff.
In the draft briefing notes in the RDOS agenda for Aug. 2, it states that the Coquihalla was originally built to enhance regional tourism and to lighten traffic on the busy trucking routes but it has changed the pattern of growth in the Okanagan Valley over time.
Highway 97 north of the Coquihalla to Kelowna is already four lanes and directors want the southern portion of the highway to match that. Improvements to the highway were made in 2008 but there are still sections that remain single-lane. The RDOS believes that this influences economic growth, traffic patterns and quality of life.
The inquiry of four-laning comes as the Ministry of Transportation is undertaking a Highway 97 -Peachland transportation study to examine how to move traffic through Peachland.
“Initial results show that Peachland’s population growth has not kept pace with the Central Okanagan or B.C. The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen would suggest that this narrow of a study is somewhat myopic by the government and that they should be interested in looking at how to most efficiently move traffic from the border to the Coquihalla, not just through Peachland,” said the notes in the RDOS agenda. “As the regional hub for the South Okanagan – Similkameen, the growth patterns of Penticton vs. Kelowna would appear even more significant that the Peachland statistics.”
Among the other draft priorities the RDOS has are receiving clarity from the ministry in regards to cannabis production in the Agricultural Land Reserve, curbside collection of beverage containers and the process how medical first response calls are dispatched to local fire departments.
The 2018 Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14.