They support improvements to the Highway 97 transportation corridor, but Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors don’t want the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to forget about the need to improve the Trans-Canada Highway.
The issue arose at the regional district’s June 15 board meeting whose agenda included an invitation to attend the Okanagan Valley Transportation Symposium, one-day workshops taking place July 18 to 22 and again in September, to develop a unified vision for transportation improvements along Highway 97, 97A and 97B.
While the board unanimously approved the attendance of Area D director René Talbot and area E director Rhona Martin, directors expressed their concerns about the Trans-Canada and directed staff to write a letter to the Ministry of Transportation.
The letter, with copies to the Town of Golden, City of Revelstoke, District of Sicamous, City of Salmon Arm as well as area MLAs and MPs, requests a joint meeting to discuss the condition of the Trans-Canada Highway and to ensure it remains a priority for upgrades.
“Without a doubt the highway from Salmon Arm east needs to be upgraded,” says Mayor Malcolm MacLeod.
“There are numerous bridges I find to be very narrow – there have been a number of accidents – these are some of the things that should be replaced.”
MacLeod says he is hopeful four-laning will be continued to the Alberta border, and while wholeheartedly approving the upcoming symposium on the Highway 97 system and CSRD’s invitation to take part in it, he wants the same opportunity to air local concerns.
“I think what they do is take a look, they pick the lowest hanging fruit,” he says of Ministry of Transportation funding of less difficult terrain. “There’s a lot of challenges between here and Alberta, it’s not easy to make changes.”
Salmon Arm director Kevin Flynn also commends the work being done to the Okanagan corridor, and notes significant dollars have already been spent in Highway 97 improvements.
“The highway that is still the true problem and a much more significant problem for commerce and safety for the whole province and for our area is Highway 1 from Kamloops to the Albert border,” he says.
“In my opinion, we cannot afford to take the focus away from the Highway 1 issues. It is still the busiest highway and most important commercial route, and probably in the poorest condition and the least safe.”
Flynn agrees the challenging geography of the terrain between Salmon Arm and the Alberta border and the enormity of the costs to improve it are reasons other areas are being funded.
“In a perfect world, we’d have four lanes between Cache Creek and Alberta, but who knows where the routes would be?” he asks. “It makes it seem almost too daunting.”