Public about to be brought into planning for second Okanagan Lake crossing

An open house will be help "very soon" to gather public feedback, says the Okanagan's top transportation ministry official.

Aerial view of the William R Bennett bridge.

The provincial study that includes looking at options for a second crossing of Okanagan Lake is about to turn to the public for input.

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure district manager Murray Tekano told West Kelonwa council earlier this week that with the initial assessment work now nearly done by the technical planning committee, inclusion of the community planning committee can start.

That work will include a public open house “very soon” to show the public what the technical committee has learned and to gather public input.

The two-year, $2 million study, which is looking at transportation issues between Lake Country and Peachland includes, but is not limited to, identifying a corridor for, and a location of, a second crossing.

While the technical planning committee involves local governments from throughout the valley, the community planning committee includes economic development, emergency services, cycling and boating organizations, as well as representatives of the public.

Tekano’s presentation did not give specifics about corridor or crossing locations but in response to a question from Coun. Rusty Ensign, said both should be identified by the time the study wraps up in 2017.

But, he added, even then it would likely be years before a second crossing would be built. When the current WR Bennett Bridge was build in 2008, the province estimated a second crossing would not be needed for 20 years. That would put it at 2028, just 13 years from now.

Tekano said before any final decision is made, there would be more consultation with local government and the public.

One of the concerns expressed by West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater is that in the long-term, funnelling traffic from a second crossing onto the existing Highway 97  on the Westside would “not be sustainable.”

He made a pitch for a bypass route, something Tekano said will be looked at as part of the study’s overall work.

But where that bypass would go is still a question.

Previous studies have indicated that it could be in the hills above West Kelowna and eventually join the Okanagan Connector. But such a route would be very expensive as, among other considerations, a high-level bridge would be required over Lynn Canyon.

Tekano said the corridor on the Westside is a “critical” part of what the two planning groups will be looking at.

“The crossing is one thing, but how you get there (is just as important),” said Tekano.

He did not give a date for when the public open house will be held during his appearance before West Kelowna council Tuesday night, but said it will be happening “very soon.”





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