Widening concern on Hwy. 97
Sep 26, 2013 / 5:30 am
Preliminary design plans surrounding the proposed widening of Highway 97 between Highway 33 and Edwards Road were released Wednesday evening at an open house in Kelowna.
“We’re here to present information for people to understand what it is we’re looking at doing to improve safety along Highway 97,” said District Highways Manager Murray Tekano. “We’re at an early stage in our work, but we’ve put some plans together that show targets for things we think are important. We’d like to hear what people have to say about that.”
The project was announced back in March of this year and will see the 4.5 kilometre stretch of Highway 97 widened to 6 lanes over multiple years at a cost of approximately $50.2 million.
"This work will improve traffic flow at the northern entrance to the city, and make for more efficient and safer connections to UBCO, Quail Ridge, Rutland, Glenmore, Ellison, Lake Country and beyond, for motorists, cyclists and transit users," said Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick on March 29 when he announced that the Government of Canada had set aside $18 million for the project, through the Building Canada Fund. The Province of British Columbia would be providing the remaining $32.2 million.
Construction is expected to begin in 2014 with Phase One, between Findlay and Edwards. Phase Two includes the area between Highway 33 Junction and Findlay Road.
Since the project is still in the planning stage, Tekano could not say exactly how long it would take to complete. Initial speculation put completion at fall 2016, but that date depends on a number of factors.
“It’s a little early to say because there may be, not only highway works, but also a lot of utility work would need to be done, and all of the coordination of that is yet to be worked out,” said Tekano.
He estimates that it will take “at least two construction seasons” to finish, but stresses that the upgrades are necessary in order to ensure proper safety and mobility on the busy stretch of highway in the years to come.
Many highway business owners, such as Tim Hortons owner Kevin Becker, are more worried that the years to come will be filled with unhappy customers and a serious drop in business.
“I understand there are safety issues, but the current plan limits the access for our customers and is going to devastate my business,” said Becker.
“It’s basically shutting us out.”
Under the new proposal, Kevin’s customers would be forced to use a more circuitous route to access the restaurant, which currently features a drive thru and two entrance/exits. The proposal would cut the number of entrance/exits down to one.
“My customers will be frustrated that they can’t get out of one end of the parking lot. It’s actually going to cause us more congestion than the way we have it now.”
Kevin, who has been at the same location for 15 years, plans to lodge his complaints using the paperwork provided at the open house. He’s doubtful that it will make a difference.
“I don’t know whether it will fall on deaf ears or not, but I hope they listen to us because these are changes that need to be made.”
Suggestions from those affected by the proposed widening of Highway 97 can still be made by emailing Senior Project Manager Spencer King.
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