Options for a second crossing of Okanagan Lake coming in the fall

The provincial team studying the Highway 97 corridor through the Central Okanagan says options will be presented at open houses.

The Ministry of Transportation says it will present options for a second crossing of Okanagan Lake in the fall. Currently

The project manger for the provincial study of Highway 97 between north Kelowna and south of Peachland says the public will see options for a second crossing of Okanagan Lake in the fall.

Ross Coates, who gave Kelowna city council an update on the three-year project Monday, confirmed the project team intends to unveil second crossing options when it holds its next round of open houses later this year.

“We are beginning to explore potential second crossing alignments,” said Coates.

He said with information garnered from the public,as well as local government and other stakeholders,the Central Okanagan Planing Study, or COPS as it known, is beginning to take shape and feedback on the options will be welcomed.

As part of its information gathering, the COPS team has derived a number of key statistics about the use of the existing W.R. Bennett Bridge that they say will influence its second crossing option decisions. They include 96 per cent of trips across the bridge start and end in the Central Okanagan, a figure that is up from 85 per cent when information was gathered for use of the previous Okanagan Floating Bridge in 1994. Also,more than two-thirds of the trips across the bridge are between Kelowna and Peachland, West Kelowna and the WFN lands.

Coates told council the WR Bennett Bridge is not not being used as much as was predicted prior to it being built in 2008 but the number is not far off the prediction.

Only four per cent of traffic using the bridge passes through the Central Okanagan for points north and east.

The study has also found what most drivers who use the bridge every day already know, while traffic volumes on the bridge may be the highest, congestion is the worst on the highway leading to it on each side of the lake.

“This realization has caused us to think hard about what the role of the provincial highway is,” he said. “Especially in urban areas.”

In response to a question from Mayor Colin Basran, Coates said the COPS team is looking at multi-modal forms of transportation on Highway 97 through the Central Okanagan, not just focussing on vehicles.

Basran asked if a “major” investment in transit along the highway was being considered by the study team.

Coasts said such options were being factored in.