“Neither option has addressed the valid concerns of the community, and the technical options failed to give enough weight to the social and community impacts of the on-line or off-line routes,” Mayor Cindy Fortin said in a press release Monday afternoon.
“The alternate or bypass routes are definitely not what the community envisioned. To be blunt, it is very disappointing.”
Throughout 2019, the ministry has been engaging with a Technical Advisory Committee, Community Liaison Committee, Indigenous communities, and Peachland council to help come up with the best options for all.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the ministry in consulting with the community, the proposed off-line routes do not bypass the community at all. In fact, they split our community in two, which is entirely unacceptable,” Fortin said.
The Peachland stretch of Highway 97 has been studied since 2015 and is the last remaining two-lane section of the highway that connects the Okanagan communities from north to south.
ORIGINAL: 2:50 p.m.
Three options have been shortlisted to smooth Highway 97 traffic through Peachland.
The province has released results from Phase 1 of its Peachland Transportation Study, identifying three preferred options that will improve safety and travel times.
A bypass of the congested section through Peachland has long been suggested, and the report concludes the preferred routes include variations on a bypass that would connect from Highway 97C to just south of Antlers Beach, as well as segment improvement options that would retain the existing route.
Five bypass options and 14 segment upgrades were reduced with public input to three, factoring in environmental impact, social and community impacts, traffic and travel demand, engineering feasibility, and cost.
The Ministry of Transportation identified a lower elevation bypass as the preferred alternate route, and an existing route that maintains at-grade intersections.
But, after discussions with the District of Peachland and Penticton Indian Band, the ministry reintroduced a second alternate route option for further consideration. It is similar to the first, except along the southern portion of the alignment, where it extends further west into the Deep Creek valley before reconnecting with the existing highway.
The second phase of the study, to be completed in spring 2020, will include further community engagement and detailed study of the routes, including traffic counts, future traffic growth projections, needs of the travelling public and community land-use plans.
The first phase of the study revealed
- One-third of the traffic that starts in Peachland stays in Peachland.
- Highway 97 in Peachland is vital for both local trips within Peachland as well as long-distance connections to, through and from Peachland.
- Peachland hosts high volumes of visiting traffic, particularly in the summer months.
- Safety concerns associated with getting on and off the highway may increase at intersections as wait times grow (along with traffic volumes).