Kaleden residents create petition that calls for traffic safety on Highway 97

Crash corridor concerns

Casey Richardson

A petition has been started demanding improvements to traffic safety for the intersection of Highway 97 at 3A to Keremeos, and the exit to Kaleden.

Residents voiced concern over the road from Penticton to Okanagan Falls overall, feeling that accidents have spiked since the highway has become one of the main routes from the Interior to the Lower Mainland.

“The traffic has been getting worse and worse over the years,” Heather King, the petition spokesperson said.

“Particularly we’ve had a lot of trucks coming through that do not know how to drive this section of road. It's a narrow road. The speed is way too high and we've got people barreling along, coming north and south.”

A bad crash occurred last week and closed a stretch of Highway 97 by Kaleden for several hours. Recently, Southern Interior highways have dealt with numerous fatalities.

“We had three major accidents last week. One member of our community noted 42 semis lined up waiting because of this traffic that was cut off for the day. That's crazy. And then we get traffic coming through here, through the town and our town is not ready for having semis driving through it to get from one point to the other.”

Subrina Monteith, area director for Kaleden, explained that the section of road has not seen improvements in years, and now with increased traffic coming through, the problems are only worsening.

“My community of Kaleden and Twin Lakes and St. Andrews, we all have concerns about using the highway and being able to get home safely. Because as traffic goes through our areas, we fear not being able to get home to our family safely.”

The petition has already garnered close to 2,500 signatures in just three days.

Monteith wants to see additions that can slow the traffic down, allow vehicles safely turn left to off the highway in the community and accommodate growing travel through the area.

The Ministry of Transportation spoke on how they are working on finding a solution for the area, whether it be temporary or permanent in a meeting with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen on Friday.

“We have a design team that is formed, that has actually formed already and is looking at options,” Erik Lachmuth, spokesperson with MoTI explained. Counts are being conducted by teams to track vehicle volumes, vehicle type, and delay times for key movements to better understand the current conditions.

There are roughly 1,300 commercial vehicles per day on Highway 3 coming into the Princeton corridor, 78 per cent of which head northbound at the junction onto Highway 5A, according to the ministry.

In a statement to Castanet, MoTI added that the counts are anticipated to take place next week specifically for Highway 97.

“The Ministry is undertaking a review of the accesses through the Kaleden area on Highway 97 to determine if improvements can be completed. Further engagement with the impacted residents and business owners is required before any improvement can be determined,” they said.

“The Ministry is also investigating options to improve intersection safety improvement at Highway 97 and Pineview drive, further discussions are required with affected landowners prior to completing any improvements.”

Truck turning warning signs have been placed already by the ministry on Highway 97 approaching the Highway 3A intersection, and increased patrols and monitoring are being carried out in this area as well.

The Ministry said that if needed, a temporary traffic control plan has been prepared to support traffic volume increases.

But citizens feel their concerns and asks will fall by the wayside once again, as they have for the past several years.

“We've been trying to get this notice, we've been trying to get traction. And nothing's happening. There's supposedly a review going on about the Highway 3A and 97 intersection. But who knows when anything's gonna come of that. And letters have been written, and we're just not getting anything changed,” King said.

“I have letters going back 15 years from people who've sent concerns to the Ministry of Transportation about the highway and nothing has happened,” Monteith added.

“So the community has suggestions, obviously, we want to be involved and, and give those suggestions.”

To view the petition, find it online here.

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