Westside rush hour traffic to speed up this afternoon

Ministry of Transportation to open up another lane for rush-hour.

West Kelowna commuters shouldn’t be subjected to the type of rush hour traffic that left many stuck on Highway 97 well into Monday night.

Murray Tekano, district manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said he is hopeful  his crews will be able to  open up two lanes for southbound traffic (toward West Kelowna) by 3 p.m.

“There will be some staging, but there will be two lanes moving under the overpass for the afternoon return home,” said Tekano.

Tekano said he understands the frustration many residents expressed after being stuck on the highway for as many as four hours, as crews worked on a collapsed retaining wall on the new overpass over Highway 97.

“We recognize it was terribly inconvenient yesterday; we appreciate everyone’s co-operation,” said Tekano.

According to Tekano, this type of incident is extremely unusual.

“I’ve been involved in bridge engineering for many years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Monday afternoon, northbound traffic was rerouted onto a makeshift road as a precautionary measure. Tekano said that the northbound lanes were safe to open at 7 a.m. this morning.

“Since yesterday afternoon we’ve been monitoring the bridge and the retaining walls. We put up some additional reinforcement and we felt comfortable opening it up.”

Kevin Baskin, chief bridge engineer with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said  the overpass itself will not be opened up until permanent repairs have been done, which will take “weeks.”

“It looks like the solution is to use shotcrete to build out a new facing system. The shotcrete would be the first layer—it’s sprayed on concrete on the locations where the facing panels have dislodged,” said Baskin.

“We’ll be building out the new facing with a combination of shotcrete, infill concrete and new facing panels.”

Baskin said that the repairs to be done in the coming weeks should not affect the traffic flow.

It is still unknown what caused the retaining wall to collapse in the first place.