Lake Country upgrade given green light

Navigating a treacherous stretch of highway in Lake Country will soon be less nerve wracking due to action on an infrastructure announcement two years in the making.

Navigating a treacherous stretch of highway in Lake Country will soon be less nerve wracking due to action on an infrastructure announcement two years in the making.

Plans to replace the Winfield to Oyama stretch of Highway 97 with a wider portion of road west of the existing two-lane section were announced back in July 2008. This week the $77.9 million project received federal environmental approval, meaning it will now go to tender.

“Investments such as this will improve safety and boost economic growth,” said Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, of the nine kilometre stretch of asphalt.

The project was initially expected to be completed in 2011 or 2012, but is now slated for a 2013 completion date.

While the timeline isn’t significantly delayed, the project was a long time in the making due to the risks associated to the strip. From 2005, to 2008 when the project was announced, that stretch of road had claimed five lives, prompting area residents to lobby Cannan for funding to change.

The stretch is also key to the highway that’s been lauded by politicians and business lobbyists alike as a critically important part of the national infrastructure, going north and south from the northeast of the province all the way down to the U.S. border.

“It will also generate new opportunities in trade and tourism and demonstrate the commitment of both governments to building world-class infrastructure,” said Kelowna Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick.

“Besides the benefits to safety the new highway will also allow for higher travel speeds.”

The provincial government is contributing $44.3 million and the federal government is providing up to $33.6 million through the Building Canada Plan toward the total $77.9 million cost.

Tenders will close at 2 p.m. on March 10.

It will take about two weeks to review the tenders before awarding the contract.