Third lane extension expected to help relieve commuter congestion

three lanes of traffic on Highway 97, have been extended eastward from the Westside Road overpass (in the distance) to the top of Bridge Hill.  - Sean Connor/Capital News
three lanes of traffic on Highway 97, have been extended eastward from the Westside Road overpass (in the distance) to the top of Bridge Hill.
— image credit: Sean Connor/Capital News

The measures implemented by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and the construction crews working on the Westside Road overpass appear to have alleviated traffic congestion on the William R. Bennett Bridge.

Two weeks ago, the ministry announced it would lengthen the time the traffic signals at Nancee Way in West Kelowna, stay green for highway traffic traveling west and would open up a third lane through the construction site to ease what had become large back-ups of traffic over the bridge during each afternoon commute out of Kelowna.

But while the traffic light move made some difference, the initial opening of the third lane west of the new overpass had little effect.

That, however, changed earlier this week when the lane was extended east of the overpass to the top of Bridge Hill.

MOT regional manager Murray Tekano said the extension of the third lane has changed the traffic flow for the better.

He said because the highway still passes through a construction zone, there will continue to be slow downs as vehicles reduce their speed in the 60 kilometre per hour zone.

Currently, there are three lanes heading west on the West Kelowna side of the bridge and two lanes east.

The overpass, which is currently half built, is expected to be complete by the fall.

Once the second half is built, the road, which currently has several twists in its alignment, will be straightened out, said Tekano.

Following completion of the overpass at Westside Road, a new underpass will be built at Nancee Way completing the project.

That work is scheduled to take another year and be complete in the fall of 2012.

The project is being managed by the Westbank First Nation and is costing the province $44 million.



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