The newest piece in the city’s $44-million transit improvement project is expected to be complete this fall when the city creates a new transit exchange at Okanagan College on KLO Road.
The overall project, which includes the phased-in Bus Rapid Transit system on Highway 97 that will eventually connect Westbank to UBC Okanagan through Kelowna, as well as new transit exchanges in Rutland and at Okanagan College, is taking shape with the two new exchanges planned for this year.
Construction of the $4.5-million exchange in Rutland is already underway and earlier this week, the city unveiled its plans for the $2.4-million exchange at Okanagan College.
The plans call for medians on what is now the middle turning lane on KLO in front of the college, special pullouts for buses and the restriction of left turns there as well as measures to reduce the speed of vehicles on that stretch of road.
Andrew Albiston, project manager in charge of the two exchange projects, said this week’s open house at the college, followed up on a similar one held in January.
The information gleaned from those who attended both open houses will help the city’s consultant, Stantec, with the preliminary design.
That design is expected to be complete by the end of the month.
Construction is tentatively scheduled to take place over the summer and be complete by the fall.
“Right now we are addressing concerns and accommodating all modes of transportation,” said Albiston.
With the thousands of students who attend Okanagan College, as well as the secondary students at the nearby Kelowna Secondary and KLO Middle schools and the area residents, the potential for increasing the use of transit in the city is big.
“This is a pretty significant opportunity to get people out of their cars and onto transit,’ said Albitson.
But he said with all those people in the area, the question of safety also has to be addressed.
Right now, with the current configuration—buses, cars and pedestrians all use the same entrance area to the college—there is the potential for serious injury, he acknowledged.
The exchange would keep buses to pullout areas alongside KLO out of existing transportation lanes on the road when they are stopped.
The new raised and landscaped medians would not give drivers the current impression of a wide road where high speeds are acceptable, added Albitson.
The exchange would replace the existing bus loop that has been at the main entrance to the college on KLO Road since the late 1970s.
It would also provide routes that would connect to the BRT on Highway 97.
That route, started two years ago, has special pullouts for buses at a limited number of stops along Harvey Avenue.
Currently it connects downtown and the university but the plan is to expand it to Westbank in the coming years.
Meanwhile, work is continuing on the construction of a transit exchange in Rutand on Shepherd Road.
Unlike the Okanagan College exchange, which Albitson described as a “retrofit,” the Rutland exchange is being built from scratch.