Overpass collapse to cause re-routing of all traffic

The nightmare scenario for West Kelowna traffic on Highway 97 should be over by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Engineers look at the debris from the retaining wall for the new Westside Road overpass

The nightmare scenario for West Kelowna traffic on Highway 97 should be over by today or Wednesday.

In the aftermath of the new Westside overpass retaining wall collapse on Sunday, the ministry of highways detoured southbound Highway 97 traffic on Sunday, then expanded that order to all traffic on Monday to allow for repairs to be made to the overpass retaining walls.

As well, the Westside Road underpass structure will be closed until further notice.

The Westside Road Interchange Project is a partnership between Westbank First Nation and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Murray Tekano, district manager for the ministry of transportation and infrastructure, said that it’s difficult to speculate why the retaining wall crumbled.

“It’s very hard to say, we really don’t know until the engineers have a look at it,” said Tekano on Sunday after initially assessing the damage.

According to Tekano, there were no collisions or injuries as a result of the collapse.

On Sunday, northbound traffic was still allowed to travel freely under the overpass on Sunday morning and Tekano said that there was no danger to those vehicles.

“We’re satisfied that northbound traffic can move under the structure; it’s only on the southbound side that this wall has collapsed,” he said.

But on Monday, all traffic was detoured to allow for the retaining wall repairs to be done.

RCMP and fire crews redirected southbound traffic towards Bear Creek Road and then onto Parkinson Road in order to get back to the highway.

Evelyn Lube, project communications for the Westside Road Interchange, said she is hopeful that engineers will be able to determine the cause of the collapse at some point on Sunday.

She also said that the retaining wall on the other side of the overpass will likely be inspected.

“I would guess that we’ll want to make sure that both sides of the structure are looked at. Safety is paramount, we don’t want to see the same problem happen again on the other side,” said Lube.

Westbank First Nation is responsible for managing the Westside Road Interchange Project and delivering it to completion.

The $41-million project was first announced in 2009 and construction on the Westside Road overpass began in the fall of 2010.

The project was funded by the Province of B.C. with contributions from the Government of Canada.

Lube said that this incident was an unpleasant surprise.

“It’s certainly not something that we want to see; nobody wants this kind of thing to happen.

“But, from time to time, projects do happen like this.”

Lube said that there will be updated information on www.drivebc.ca and updates given through the media to make sure that people know what the traffic patterns will be.