The only way to alleviate traffic congestion on Kelowna roads is to provide more transportation options, says city staff.
City council was told Monday that simply building more roads and widening existing ones will only increase traffic and, while it may help in the short-term, in the long run it will put the city right back where it is today.
“If we build a lot of roads to build more capacity we will attract more traffic, and that’ll make the very neighbourhoods that have the best chance of shifting travel to more sustainable modes, less pleasant places to do business and live in,” transportation engineer Gordon Foy told council.
“Giving people more convenient choices to get around is the only way to solve congestion.”
According to a national transportation organization, Kelowna residents own more vehicles per capita than residents in any other city in the country. And they use those vehicles—a lot.
It is estimated that motorists in the city collectively drive a total distance equivalent of travelling to the moon and back twice each week day, said Foy. And, in doing so, they collectively use parking spaces a total of 340,000 times each day as well.
But, likely the most mind-boggling statistic in Foy’s presentation to council Monday was the cost of widening a major road in the city.
Based on the $67 million cost the province is paying to widen a 4.5 kilometre stretch of Highway 97 north of the city, the estimated cost to widen a major city thoroughfare is now $26 million per kilometre when every aspect of the project is included.
Kelowna currently spends about $40 million per year on all transportation related issues combined, with just over half of that allocated for maintaining the existing road network and building new roads.
On Monday, council approved 12 goals for its new Transportation Master Plan, a plan it hopes will help alleviate traffic congestion over the next 20 years.
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