Ministry of Transportation plans to open one lane of Highway 97 landslide site within weeks

Hwy to open one lane soon

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m.

The Ministry of Transportation is planning on a Sept. 16 or 17 re-opening of one lane with alternating traffic on Highway 97 north of Summerland at the landslide site.

Steve Sirett, MoTI executive director for the southern interior region, confirmed Wednesday that is the current timeline, as crews work to create a significant berm up against the landslide.

"The reason we want to stay at single lane to begin with is that allows us to control traffic and it's the quickest way to close down the site should the need arise," Sirett explained.

"Once we have an opportunity to monitor and see all that slide response that will then inform when we might be able to open for two way traffic. But at this point, until we get there and get some monitoring, we don't really have a sense of when that might occur."

Sirett said the ministry will also continue to monitor and grade the two forest service road alternate routes on either side of the lake, and acknowledged traffic will likely be heavy on the highway.

"Motorists [will need] to expect delays," Sirett said. "We're doing some work to understand what we think [traffic issues] might be, and we will share some of that information as we get closer to that time. We won't necessarily be recommending that folks continue to use the detours but we will continue to maintain them and patrol them."

ORIGINAL: 10:30 a.m.

No timeline is available for when Highway 97 will reopen north of Summerland.

In a statement issued to Castanet, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed geotechnical engineers "continue to monitor and assess data from sensors at the slide site. The sensors show a steady continuing movement of the slope, and the highway remains closed to protect public safety due to the risk of further rockfall."

A large lock block wall was constructed over the weekend to protect the highway, and crews are now working on a 150-metre-long buttress between the wall and the bottom of the slope.

"There is currently no estimate on when the highway will reopen, pending the engineering assessments," MoTI says.

"However the lock block wall and buttress will support a safe reopening of the highway when engineers deem it is safe to do so."

In the meantime, the ministry continues to maintain and monitor two recommended non-highway detours:

Travel between Penticton and Kelowna

  • Use 201 Forest Service Road
  • Gravel road (graded)
  • Accessed off Highway 33 near McCollough Road near Kelowna and via Warren/Carmi Avenue in Penticton
  • This route will add approximately 60-90 minutes of travel time

Travel between Summerland and Peachland

  • Use the Trout Main to Peachland Forest Service Road
  • Gravel road (graded)
  • This route will add 90 minutes of travel time

Additional signage has been installed and the routes will be patrolled 24 hours a day. Staff at reception tents at the detour entrances will provide maps and answer questions from motorists.

MoTI says graders are working "continuously," but drivers will still experience rough conditions. Vehicles should be properly equipped and fuelled, and drivers should be aware that cell coverage is limited. Travel during daylight is recommended.

Heavy commercial vehicles must detour using highways 97C, 5A and 3A or highway 33.

The government has published maps and info on the roads here.

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