Study to look at cost, benefits of Peachland bypass
The District of Peachland and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are contributing funds to take a closer look at the possibility of a Highway 97 bypass around Peachland.
The study is expected to cost about $50,000. Peachland will contribute $20,000 to the study, while MOTI covers the remaining cost.
"The study is to consider the cost and benefits if the highway is either (rerouted) or left in place," said John Abernethy, chairman of the Highway 97 committee to Peachland council.
"From my point of view, the benefits to Peachland are pretty obvious. The most valuable land in Peachland is the lake frontage land. Currently, a little over four kilometres of that land is kind of sterilized by the highway being right there."
He added a Peachland bypass will enhance future developments, such as New Monaco: A proposed multi-use urban development that could double Peachland's population.
Several years ago, Abernethy took it upon himself to study the topography of the terrain around Peachland and plot a "physically feasible route" where the highway could potentially bypass the town.
When Premier and Westside-Kelowna MLA Christy Clark said she was in favour of looking into a second crossing over Okanagan Lake, Abernethy went back to the maps to check the contours for a potential connecting bypass behind West Kelowna.
"Low and behold there is the potential for such a bypass," said Abernethy.
"When you look at the route possibilities, our bypass makes the bypass behind West Kelowna feasible."
Abernethy added "short-term fixes" haven't solved the highway problems facing several communities throughout the valley.
"When you do it that way, you never change the route of the highway, it ends up staying right where it always was: Right in the centre of town.
"We need a long-term perspective here; the short-term (planning) has gotten us into this mess."
Michael Trickey, general manager of community services with the District of West Kelowna, agreed the current Highway 97 situation isn't ideal for West Kelowna.
"It just isn't working here," said Trickey.
"We understand that Highway 97 is important to the province because it's a pretty good north-south trade route, but our residents also use it as a street and we have a lot of cross traffic on it."
Trickey said the district would like to see MOTI undertake a corridor plan to look at several problems, such as travel times, safety and economic development.
He added it's important to get Kelowna, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and Peachland agreeing on a common vision of what a future highway would look like. Public consultation would be a key part of that vision, he added.
Abernethy is also a member and director of the Highway 97 Task Force: The original citizen's group that supported the concept of the highway being rerouted around Peachland. The group, which currently has about 650 members, will host its annual general meeting June 12, 7:15 p.m. at the Peachland Community Centre.
Bruce Letendre, president of the task force, said Peachland residents, as well as those who travel through Peachland for work, are invited to attend the annual meeting and show their support for the Peachland bypass.