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‘If it saves one life, to me it’s worth it’: Kelowna council votes for $12M overpass

The Bertram St. overpass will connect downtown to the Central Green
Kelownacouncil has approved a new pedestrian overpass across Highway 97 at Bertram Street. (Gary Barnes/Capital News)

There was palpable tension at council’s regular Monday (Aug. 28) meeting over spending $12.1 million to build an overpass across Highway 97 at Bertram Street.

Councillors Ron Cannan, Charlie Hodge, Rick Webber, and Gord Lovegrove wanted to defer the decision to explore other alternatives and the possibility of obtaining more money from the province.

The project dates back 12 years when it was a condition of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure agreeing to the Central Green development.

“It’s a bad deal as far as the agreement goes,” said Cannan. “I don’t think the taxpayer should have to pay the increased cost.”

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Hodge sided with Cannan in exploring other options.

“I‘m not convinced it’s going to be the wonderful crossover that people think it is. We took too long to make the decision and I think we’re going to pay for it,” Hodge said.

Initial work on the project was to begin in 2021 when the price tag was $5.5 million.

When it went to tender in 2022, the cost came in at more than double that and the project was put on hold.

Now the city is using $7.2 million from the more than $26 million it received from the provincial Growing Communities Fund to pay for the overpass, with the rest coming from the land sales reserve, federal gas tax and the reallocation of funds from various transportation projects.

Conceptual rendering over the Bertram Street Multiuse overpass planned to cross Highway 97 between Richter and Ethel Streets. (Photo City of Kelowna)
Conceptual rendering over the Bertram Street Multiuse overpass planned to cross Highway 97 between Richter and Ethel Streets. (Photo City of Kelowna)

Webber said he thought the price tag was too high.

“Is it a must-have or a nice to-have?” he asked.

While other councillors also balked at the cost, the consensus was the overpass would improve safety.

“I don’t care if it happens to be an additional $5 million, if it saves one life to me it’s worth it,” said Mayor Tom Dyas.

Staff told council that 400 pedestrians and 750 cyclists use the Richter and Ethel crosswalks, to the east and west of Bertram, on a daily basis.

Statistics from ICBC show that approximately 52 pedestrians are killed, and 2,400 are injured in crashes every year in B.C.

Construction on the overpass is expected to start in March 2024 and be completed by late October or early November.

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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