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Kelowna  

Click to view more bridge opening day photos.  (Photo: Rachael Kimola)
Click to view more bridge opening day photos. (Photo: Rachael Kimola)

New Bennett bridge officially opens

by - Story: 39553


It was something most Okanagan residents will likely never see again in their life times.

Starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, thousands of people crossed the new William R. Bennett bridge in Kelowna for the first time.

The bridge officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony featuring local dignitaries, including the bridge’s name sake, former Premier Bill Bennett.

Premier Gordon Campbell handed Bennett a very special pair of scissors to cut the ribbon with.

“These scissors were used by Princess Margaret and Premier W.A.C. Bennett to open the Okanagan Floating Bridge nearly 50 years ago,” says Campbell.

Other dignitaries in attendance at the bridge opening were, Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon, Kelowna mayor Sharon Shepard, Westside mayor Rosalind Neis, Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie, and MLAs Sindi Hawkins, Rick Thorpe and Al Horning.

Falcon says the $144.5 million bridge will open to westbound traffic at midnight Sunday, a full 108 days ahead of schedule.

“This is one of just nine such floating bridges in the world and I am proud it was delivered on budget and ahead of schedule. Some people ask why we would do a private/public partnership for such a big project. The answer is because it saves money and gets us a bridge 108 days early,” says Falcon.

Bennett says he hopes everyone will enjoy the bridge every day.

“I would say to the Premier it may be time to look at building the next bridge,” says Bennett.

Neis says the sheer amount of people who came to celebrate the bridge opening speaks volumes about what it will mean to the community.

“It almost brought a tear to my eye, to look out and see all the thousands of people who wanted to be a part of the opening and walk across the bridge for the first time,” says Neis.

One of the first people to cross the bridge was Veronica Scarpino. She was the official first pedestrian to cross the bridge.

“I won the honour of being the first pedestrian by writing a letter and telling my story. Last year I couldn’t have even walked across the old, flat bridge. I had a heart transplant on December 15 and to be able to walk all the way across this bridge is so meaningful to me,” says Scarpino.

Chief Louie says the new bridge represents a new link between the two communities.

“The bridge and the associated improvements on both sides are models for how governments can work together to ensure all communities benefit,” says Louie.

Sunday’s opening festivities also included a parade of lights, a parade of boats and a cake cutting.


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