Is it finally time to build a Kelowna bypass?
The exponential increase in truck traffic down Highway 97 in recent weeks is easy to see and it’s not just because of the extended closure of the Coquihalla Highway due to flood damage.
Along with finding answers to the labour shortage and the lack of affordable housing, improved transportation infrastructure is one of the top priorities of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce heading into 2022.
“One of the things that we’ve been pushing for with the city is a commercial goods study, and we want to see them work in getting that underway, with the province. We need to address our long-term needs for commercial traffic,” said Dan Rogers, executive director, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
Highway 3 is currently the only major route open to transport trucks carrying goods between the Interior and the Lower Mainland, and a lot of that volume is being funnelled through the Okanagan.
Rogers also points out Kelowna continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada.
“We expect 40,000 more people, over the course of the city’s OCP (Official Community Plan), to be moving to the community. Whether they land here or West Kelowna or in Lake Country is yet to be seen, but they need to move around. And our transportation needs a lot of focus, whether it’s municipally or by the provincial government.”
He says the chamber of commerce will be working to ensure the provincial government doesn’t just focus on fixing the Coquihalla highway and then puts all the other projects in the Central Okanagan on the back burner.
The City of Kelowna Transportation Master Plan does include a proposal for a truck route.
The Clement Avenue Extension has been talked about for a long time. It was previously called the Central Okanagan Bypass, or Multi-Modal Corridor.
Extending Clement from Spall Rd. to Highway 33 would help take pressure off Highway 97, Enterprise Way and Springfield Road. However, the transportation plan currently doesn't see the project starting until 2031 and recommends further study of the extension in partnership with the BC Ministry of Transportation.