Stewart: Upgrading of Westside Road continues to be a priority for transportation ministry

Westside Road was never intended for the amount of traffic it now receives.

Shortly after I was first elected MLA for Westside-Kelowna, I attended a public meeting at Wilson’s Landing.

There was a significant turnout, and the message was clear: Westside Road needs attention.

They were right.

Westside Road was never intended for the amount of traffic it now receives, there were limited opportunities to pass, and many residents felt that several stretches of the road were simply unsafe.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation acted immediately, starting with extensive survey work.

Since the fall of 2009, our government has spent over $2.945 million including engineering, constructing five slow-moving vehicle pullouts and road realignment at Dimitri Creek, 5.4 kilometres of road resurfacing at three sites north of the LaCasa resort, and complete sign upgrade and delineator installations along the entire 70-kilometre length of the corridor.

The list does not and will not stop there. Recently, we announced two projects with a combined value of $4.6 million to realign and widen Westside Road at Cinnabar Creek and near Blue Grouse Road.

On every step of the way, we’ve worked closely with the public, including and particularly the Westside Road Improvement Committee. Their input has been invaluable.

I have heard complaints that Highway 97 receives more attention, but the two roads aren’t really comparable.

The average traffic on Westside Road is approximately 1,000 vehicles per day. Portions of the road do see substantially higher volumes in the summer—south of Bear Creek Provincial Park, it’s approximately 2,500 vehicles per day.

Those numbers still pale in comparison to Highway 97—traffic volumes in the vicinity of Westside Road are in the order of 50,000 vehicles per day.

Can we improve the entire 70-km corridor? Not right away. The ministry of transportation estimates the entire cost to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

That’s in addition to the over $12.9 million spent on Westside Road between 2000 and 2010.

Consider the six traffic pullouts added since 2010; they may not seem like “major” upgrades, but once they’re in place, those “minor” projects make a real difference.

For example, I recently drove down Westside Road, following a vehicle which used the pullout, allowing me to pass easily.

Those traffic pullouts have transformed not only Westside Road, but the experience of driving it.

It’s an easier, less stressful, and with spots for slower-moving vehicles to pull over and allow cars behind them to pass, significantly less frustrating for slower and faster-moving vehicles alike.

At that first public meeting I attended in October 2009, I realized Westside Road would have to be one of my priorities as MLA. Since then, we’ve invested over $7.5 million improving it.

The work isn’t done yet, but it’s already made a significant difference.

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