The city of Penticton is asking local motorists and commuters to exercise patience and understanding during an expected spike in traffic volume along Highway 97.
Traffic is expected to come through Highway 97 as the only route available at this time with the Coquihalla and Highway 1 closed. It’s not known at this time when the heavily damaged Coquihalla will be opened again but Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter told the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen that it will be months.
Highway 3 will be the main corridor for all motorists including truck traffic which usually would use the Coquihalla Highway.
“It’s unreasonable for local detachments to manage that volume of traffic coming through Princeton, Keremeos and heading through 3A and Highway 97, up through Penticton,” said Hunter who spoke to the RDOS directors at their meeting on Thursday.
“Our commanding officer has engaged BC Highway and their mandate for the short term will include everything Highway 3 including enforcement and traffic control which will allow our regular members to police our communities because it’s going to be significant,” said Hunter.
Traffic problems are going to be the major concern of the Princeton RCMP.
“Every piece of traffic moving from the Lower Mainland to the rest of the country is going to coming through our two lane uncontrolled intersection,” said Sgt. Rob Hughes.
The same concern will be at the uncontrolled intersection in Kaleden and the blind left onto Highway 97 which has seen multiple crashes in October.
Extra attention should be observed at intersections, on ramps and pull-outs, as well as traffic lights, which may trigger longer than normal waits due to heavier vehicle volumes, said the city in a press release.
“Resuming the daily movement of people and goods throughout southern B.C. is currently limited to just a few open routes, with Highway 97 through Penticton playing a key role in this effort,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki. “Please be patient, considerate and welcoming of your fellow B.C. motorists who find themselves being redirected through Penticton due to the disruptive impact of this week’s weather event.”
To help manage traffic volumes through this period, passage around southern B.C. should be limited to essential travel only.
Highway 1, 3 and 5 are still closed due to landslides and flooding. Highway 7 was opened temporarily to allow trapped vehicles to go home.
The town of Merritt remains evacuated and over 300 homes in Princeton remain evacuated as well as some homes in Cawston, Eastgate and other areas.