ROCK SLIDE WORK Crews continue to clear a rock slide on Highway 97 north of Summerland. The slide occurred Jan. 31 and since Feb. 2, the highway has been closed, although a detour is in place. The highway is expected to reopen early next week. (John Arendt/Summerland Review)

Highway 97 reopening expected by next week

Rock slide north of Summerland has resulted in road closure since Feb. 2

Crews are still working to clear the rock slide on Highway 97, but the road at the site remains closed and a detour is still in place.

Steve Sirett, district manager, transportation with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said the ministry nowe expects to have the highway open early next week.

For almost a month, a rock slide has affected traffic on Highway 97 in the Okanagan Valley.

The slide occurred on the evening of Jan. 31 and the highway has been closed since Feb. 2.

However, there has been no new movement over the past 12 days, allowing excavators to continue breaking and pulling down rock and debris.

So far, around 13,000 cubic metres of material has been removed from the slide. This is enough to fill more than five Olympic swimming pools.

The amount of material is around three times more than originally estimated as the back slope is deeper than expected, ministry officials say.

The material is being hauled to the Bentley Pit, a few kilometres south of the slide area.

“As we continue to remove material and expose the slope, we expect to come across bigger sections of rock needing to be drilled and blasted, as excavators won’t be able to break it down. If there are no further challenges — like severe weather or slide movement — we are hoping to restore traffic to the highway by the end of next week,” a ministry statement read.

Sirett said an estimated 27,000 cubic metres has slid at the site.

“As we started to remove the material, the failure of the slide was quite a bit deeper than we had expected,” he said.

When the highway opens up, Sirett said it will be three lanes initially, with the lane closest to the rock face remaining closed.

RELATED: Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

RELATED: Rock slide on Highway 97 north of Summerland beginning to stabilize

Ministry officials say they want to see how the site reacts as the temperatures warm up.

Sirett said the crews at the site deserve credit for their efforts during some difficult conditions.

“We certainly have to recognize the team and what they’ve been doing,” he said. “It’s been some unseasonably cold weather. Their commitment and dedication to getting this road open has been truly amazing.”

While the work at the site continues, the Callan Road detour remains in place. The detour is open 24 hours a day, with occasional stoppages for blasting work.

The speed limit at the detour is 30 kilometres an hour. Pedestrians and cyclists are not permitted on the detour.

Vehicles wider than 3.8 metres are only allowed on the detour between midnight at 5 a.m.

So far, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has spent more than $500,000 on all the work related to this rock slide, including the construction of the Callan Road detour.

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