Letnick: Have your say on Central Okanagan road network

Highway 97 is the busiest route in the Interior and Hwy 97 from UBCO to Lake Country sees approximately 30,000 vehicles per day.

People often ask me why I decided to re-enter public life, and one incident usually comes to mind—the death of a pedestrian standing at a Kelowna street corner waiting to cross the road. The incident may have happened 10 years ago, but it’s never far from my mind. It’s why the safety of my constituents is one of my highest priorities.

I was reflecting on this last week as I announced on behalf of Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone that our government will install concrete median barriers on approximately nine kilometres of Highway 97 between Kelowna and Lake Country. The total project budget is $2.5 million.

Work will begin later this month on phase one of the project, which will see concrete median barriers installed on Highway 97 from University Way to the north end of Duck Lake. This part of the project is expected to be completed this summer.

Phase two of the safety improvements is in the early planning stages and will likely be completed in fall 2016. It will include median barriers continuing north along Highway 97 from Duck Lake to Commonwealth Road, as well as some additional access improvements. Once initial planning is complete, the proposed design will be brought forward for public consultation. I encourage everyone to take part in this process and share their thoughts and ideas.

Given the importance of Highway 97 to our region, I’m sure there will be plenty of input. It’s a key route for both travel and trade, connecting multiple communities and regions across the province. Highway 97 is the busiest route in the Interior and this particular stretch of road sees approximately 30,000 vehicles per day. With the population of the Okanagan region expected to grow rapidly over the next 10 years, it’s important that we invest in safety improvements and ensure infrastructure keeps pace.

The potential for a second crossing over Okanagan Lake is another option we’re exploring thanks to this growing population, and we want your input on this as well. Two open houses were held in Kelowna and West Kelowna this past week, and our online consultation is now underway at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/okanagansecondcrossing.

Here, you can get background information about the transportation planning going on in the Central Okanagan as well as submit a feedback form either online, by email or mail. This is all part of the ministry’s three-year Central Okanagan Planning Study, which was launched in the fall of 2014.

Of course, our region is just one part of B.C.’s vast transportation network which supports trade for our province’s expanding resource sectors. If you’re interested in learning more about efforts to improve our road infrastructure beyond the Central Okanagan– I encourage you to read B.C. on the Move, the Province’s 10-year transportation plan, at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/transportationplan.