Update: Crews have removed more than 500 cubic metres from rock slide site

Main transit corridor between Penticton and Kelowna expected to reopen on Wednesday afternoon

Updated 4:45 p.m.

Crews have now removed more than 500 cubic metres from the site in the areas where it is safe to work.

More blasting is planned for tomorrow morning and depending on the geotechnical assessment to follow, could provide Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff with a more detailed timeline of reopening.

Ministry staff are still hopeful the road will reopen on Wednesday afternoon.

Once the highway is deemed safe, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure the longer term stability of the site

As a result, intermittent closures during daytime hours can be expected.

Engineers have approved clearance for emergency vehicles to go through the slide area when necessary, with a ministry pilot and spotters in place.

“We understand the impact to local residents and businesses, and appreciate peoples’ patience while ministry staff work to create stability for travel along this section of Highway 97,” a Ministry news release states.

Updated 12:17 p.m.

Highway 97 remains north of Summerland remains closed today, but officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure say they are hoping to have the road open to traffic by Wednesday afternoon.

However, the reopening will depend on the progress made on removing debris from the rock slide.

“Safety is our top priority, and we will have the route restored as soon as it is safe to do so,” a news release from the ministry stated.

Blasting at the site on Monday went well and approximately 100 cubic metres was brought down.

“Now that the hill is more accessible, we have been able to increase the number of rock scalers from seven to 10,” the release says. “Scalers moved further north on the slope this morning to prepare for further blasting, and we now have two excavators and a rock hammer on site to keep building the access up the slope. Our maintenance contractor, Argo, has mobilized large off-highway rock trucks to remove as much material as soon as possible after blasting.”

Once the debris is removed, crews will reassess the slope to determine what other steps need to be taken.

Two alternate routes are in place.

For light vehicles, five tonnes or less, the 201 Forest Service Road is available. This road can be accessed via Warren Avenue and Carmi Avenue in Penticton and off Highway 33 near McCulloch Road in Kelowna. Signage and traffic control have been installed at both locations.

The speed limit along this road is 50 kilometres an hour.

Larger vehicle must use Highway 97C, Highway 5A, Highway 3A and Highway 3.

Updated 11:02 a.m.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton reports there will be 10 rock scalers at the site today with other heavy equipment.

In addition, four off-highway dump trucks will be at the scene to remove the debris.

The plan is to have two lanes open for traffic, one in each direction.

“Ideally, given the large amount of material to be removed and ongoing scaling work, it is expected traffic may be moving at some point tomorrow, most likely before noon,Æ he says.

Once the highway is reopened, a schedule is expected as ongoing temporary closures will be required as the work continues.

6:55 a.m.

Highway 97 north of Summerland remains closed, but efforts to clear the way are being made.

The Ministry of Transportation announced at 9 a.m. that the rock skalers are getting busy to blast the rock above the road, though an update from Drive BC isn’t expected at noon.

A rock scaling team, along with geo-technical engineers identified a blast line that was being drilled yesterday with blasting expected later on Tuesday afternoon.

Related: Driver films rock slide

According to MLA Dan Ashton, further technical evaluation would then be required to ensure that slope stability has been obtained. He said once that occurs then debris removal can occur and limited traffic flow can being, subject to all safety factors have been met.

Related: Chamber pres concerned about economic impact of extended Highway 97 closure

“However, given many variables yet to be known and pending the afternoon blasting, in my view it is more likely that possible access through the area may not be until sometimes (Tuesday). Again, this is based on (Monday’s) activities concluding successfully,” said Ashton.

This news article will be updated as more information becomes available throughout the day.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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