Three years from now, there will be six lanes on Highway 97 from Costco to the university.
The provincial government will have poured $32.2 million into the Okanagan economy and the federal government $18 million, for a total of $50.2 million, largely in construction jobs.
And the 60,000 drivers who traverse this stretch of highway each day will have earned a dime’s share of patience during the two-and-a-half years of construction needed to do away with the notorious traffic jams along the stretch of road.
“It will reduce the cost of movement along the highway…(and) economic productivity is enhanced,” said MP Ron Cannan, in a funding announcement mid-Thursday afternoon.
In the end, it also means one of the top five infrastructure priorities residents of Kelowna identified for MLAs Ben Stewart, Norm Letnick and Steve Thompson will be complete, the funding announced just in time for the coming provincial election.
The stretch of highway in question is invariably clogged during rush-hour, leading to more accidents and longer commutes for those travelling in and out of the city. With six lanes, and more streamlined intersections, it’s hoped traffic flow will improve during these busy periods.
“We’ve been working our way through the ‘honey to do list’…and this, today, was us delivering on our promise to our constituents,” said Letnick, whose riding the project falls within.
The expansion will span a 4.5-kilometre stretch between Highway 33 and Edwards Road and will serve a raft of Okanagan drivers.
“This work will improve traffic flow at the northern entrance to the city, and make for more efficient and safer connections to UBCO, Quail Ridge, Rutland, Glenmore, Ellison, Lake Country and beyond for motorist, cyclist and transit users,” said Letnick.
It is still unclear when the Rails with Trails off-road bike path the city and provincial government were supposed to construct alongside this particular stretch of highway will move forward. That project hit a snag in negotiations with CN Rail and is now several years behind target.
This project will be executed in two phases with construction expected to begin in the summer.