The BC. Ministry of Transportation says it is introducing two measures to ease traffic congestion on the William R. Bennett Bridge and Bridge Hill during afternoon rush hours.
In recent week, thanks to the construction of the Westside Road overpass, traffic has slowed to a crawl heading into West Kelowna in the late afternoons.
But Murray Tekano, district manager of transportation for the ministry, said a third lane from the top of Bridge Hill to the traffic light as Nancee Way has been re-opened and the signals at Nancee Way have been adjusted to provide a longer green light for Highway 97 traffic.
“This should really help move traffic through,” said Tekano.
He said the ministry has been monitoring the traffic flows in the area for the last few weeks and expected the slowdowns, especially as tourist traffic began to pick up.
In addition to the extra green light time at Nancee Way, there will also be longer green light time for highway traffic at the intersection of Highway 97 and Boucherie Road, further to the west.
Tekano could not say how much longer the lights will stay green because the times will differ according to the traffic patterns.
In recent weeks, afternoon rush hour has seen traffic backed up on Bridge Hill, the bridge itself and along parts of Harvey Avenue in Kelowna.
Last Wednesday, when many drivers left work early to get home and watch the opening game of the Stanley Cup final series, traffic was particularly heavy.
To make matters worse, the RCMP set up a road block on the side road connecting Campbell Road at the west end of the bridge with the highway near the WFN cemetery and that added to the overall congestion. The police were asking drivers for their licences and vehicle registrations.
The overpass project is being managed by the WFN.
Tekano said despite the heavy traffic congestion during the morning rush hour into Kelowna and the afternoon rush out into West Kelowna, the ministry is happy with the way the $44 million project is proceeding.
In addition to the overpass, which is expected to be completed later this year, an underpass will be built at Nancee Way, meaning the removal of the traffic lights there.
That portion of the work will start when the overpass is completed at Westside Road and is expected to be finished next year.
Meanwhile, construction is also continuing on a new shopping centre being built alongside the overpass project, beside the WFN office building.