The provincial government has no plans to build a second bridge across Okanagan Lake

2nd crossing not an option

A second bridge across Okanagan Lake either just north or south of the current William R. Bennett Bridge is not in the cards in the coming years.

The idea, which has been discussed dating back to before the opening of the present bridge in 2008, and included in a Central Okanagan transportation study, was shot down by Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure staff during a presentation on the now complete Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy.

The strategy, which looked at a potential second bridge in the context of an overall regional transportation context, doesn't make sense and would do little to achieve transportation goals into the future.

"A second crossing doesn't solve the problem you think it would," a ministry staffer told council.

He says one would think with a second bridge you would just split the difference traffic-wise between the two.

Not so.

"It doesn't exactly work that way. What we find is most people want to be in the core which in this case is downtown Kelowna, so they would tend to stay in the existing bridge.

"Relatively few people actually travel all the way through the community. They want to get to places along the existing corridor, so we see the demand for the new crossing would be relatively low."

The benefits he says would be modest and very short lived. A very expensive project for minimal benefit.

MoTI staff also say the goal of the strategy and that of the municipalities across the region, is to encourage development in three identified core areas of downtown Westbank, the Kelowna portion between the bridge and Highway 33 and Lake Country Town Centre.

The strategy which will also be presented to West Kelowna, Lake Country, Peachland and WFN councils and the RDCO board outlines several initiatives over a 20 year horizon.

However, ministry Southern Interior regional executive director Steve Sirett says we're not even close to construction on any of the potential projects outlined in the strategy.

"There is no construction funding for any of the projects," he says.

"There is a lot of work to be done. Even if I received construction funding for any of these projects today, it would be three to five years out for the project to actually move forward, especially when we talk about the complexity of the Okanagan and the Highway 97 corridor."

He says the good news is the next set of priorities have now been identified to move forward.

Some of the projects identified include elimination of the couplet through downtown Westbank, creation of interchanges at Boucherie and Westlake roads, similar to that at Westside Road to allow traffic to flow smoother.

There are also discussions around adding a sixth lane to the William R. Bennett Bridge, potentially for buses only to make transit a more attractive option.

The same could be done through the city of Kelowna.

Also on the books is the north end connector which would link Clement Avenue with Highway 33. The province recently pledged $600,000 for planning a preliminary design work which the city will match.

Other projects moving north include work around the Gateway in the Reid's Corner area, a future airport interchange and work at Commonwealth Road.

More Kelowna News