Highway 97 opening for two-lane traffic at rockslide site north of Summerland

Hwy 97 opening two lanes

UPDATE: 4 p.m.

Significant construction completed of the 150-metre-long berm to stabilize the slope of the rockslide above Highway 97 through Summerland led to two-lane traffic being approved for Friday.

Steve Sirett, executive director of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Southern Interior Highways and Regional Services division said the berm is now largely at the point that crews wanted it to be.

"We've also been able to establish a real-time monitoring system out there that's constantly kept scanning the slope and gives us some more comfort if it's starting to move. That would then allow us to shut down the highway quickly again if that's what we're seeing," he added.

The slide has continued to stay stable and crews have been able to gain access to the top.

MoTi's goal is to get the highway fully reopened but said there's still no timeline on how long it'll take to get there.

"The next step is to have our engineers have an assessment of the site and figure out just how we start to stabilize that. So one of those first things we'll be doing is drilling and blasting and starting to bring some of the material down off of the slide."

Sirett explained that work on the slide site isn't as simple as blasting down loose material to make the area safe again.

"There's a lot of material out there, first of all, so it would take quite a while," he said. "It's not just the only solution. It's definitely part of it. But it's also got to be done safely for the people that are working on that slope, so it does take time."

Heading forward, Sirett said it's going to be a dynamic situation, which makes it tough to firm up a timeline.

"There's no set figure of how much material we need to get off the slope. It's really starting to bring it down, seeing how the slide responds, and getting more data as we go ahead," he added.

"Really, until we start drilling and get a sense of how productive we can be and how much material we can remove in a day or a week, we just don't know."

Traffic flow reports indicate that drivers are heading through the area well and not experiencing delays any longer than 10 minutes, according to Sirett.

"It's still a construction site. So people should expect some still expect some like random minor interruptions and closures for access."

He added that the ministry will be communicating more of a schedule around closures and impacts people can expect when larger-scope construction begins.

The ministry continues to maintain and monitor one non-highway detour, the 201 Forest Service Road for now. The Trout Main to Peachland Forest Service Road has been shut down due to the Glen Lake Wildfire.

Sirett reminds travellers to continue to check DriveBC before heading out and to drive carefully through the highway as crews continue their work.

ORIGINAL: 2:45 p.m.

The Ministry of Transportation has announced that Highway 97 north of Summerland will open for two lanes of traffic starting Friday at noon.

Since Sept. 11, the highway has been operating with single-lane-alternating traffic as crews worked to stabilize the hillside after a rockslide closed the highway on Aug. 28.

Contractors have built a lock-block wall to protect the highway from falling rocks and installed a 150-metre berm between the wall and the bottom of the slope to temporarily address slope movement.

MoTI said construction of permanent stabilization measures will continue.

Geotechnical engineers continue to monitor the slide site for changes in ground conditions.

The road may need to be closed again with limited notice if deemed unsafe, MoTI adds. Heavy rainfall may increase the likelihood of closure.

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