The first major phase of a $41-million transportation improvement project was completed on time and on budget.
Westbank First Nation celebrated the milestone of completing the Westside Road Interchange on Saturday morning.
Workers and contractors responsible for the development of the interchange were thanked at the celebration. A smudging ceremony also took place prior to the event.
By noon, the interchange was fully operational.
“It feels great,” said Evelyn Lube, head of communications for the project. “We had a few challenges in the project. Dealing with the traffic is a big challenge: There are 50,000 vehicles that use Highway 97 (everyday).
“For the contractor to be able to get the work done, keep people safe, keep traffic moving, keep the project on budget and on schedule, that’s a real accomplishment.”
The entire Westside Road Interchange Project is now 65 per cent complete. The next phase will focus on developing an underpass at Nancee Way.
“The Nancee Way underpass is an important part for Westbank First Nation,” Lube said.
“It (will) help to provide access to the commercial areas that Westbank First Nation has planned on the other side of the highway. Having an alternate access to the other side of the highway is going to be really important.”
Work on that underpass will begin immediately, she added.
“We’ll be decommissioning the temporary intersection that was installed at Nancee Way. So the first set of lights that you see when you leave Kelowna and get on the bridge will be at the Boucherie Road intersection.”
The Nancee Way underpass is set to be completed in the summer of 2012.
WFN Chief Robert Louie said that completion of the Westside Road Interchange was a “very important milestone.”
“When the (underpass) at Nancee Way is complete, we’ll be turning the interchange, in its complete form, over to the province,” said Louie.
“Until then it’s our responsibility to ensure that the project is completed on time and on budget with the least possible impact to the highway users.”
Lube urged drivers to use caution when using the new interchange.
“There still is a 60 km/h speed zone so people still need to slow down and watch for signs. There are a lot of new signs up here, it’s a new area. We just want everybody to use caution and obey the traffic control people,” said Lube.