Crews will start tackling a multi-million-dollar transportation project this spring.
Windley Contracting of Nanaimo has been awarded a $40.8 million contract for the new four-lane Highway 97 between Winfield and Oyama.
“Sometime near the end of April we should be able to start construction,” said Reid Drummond, project manager for the Ministry of Transportation.
The plan is to have the nine-kilometre, upland route completed in 2013.
Drummond doesn’t believe there will be any major interupption for motorists once work does begin.
“The bulk of the project is away from the existing alignment,” he said of the current highway along Wood Lake.
The $77.9 million project was announced in 2008 by the federal and provincial governments as away of reducing the number of accidents in the area.
It was decided to construct a new upland route because the existing narrow, two-lane highway would have been too challenging to expand because of Wood Lake on one side and rock cliffs on the other side.
The District of Lake Country had been demanding upgrades for years.
“It’s very good news,” said Coun. Noreen Guenther of the construction contract being awarded.
“This will solve a lot of safety issues. There are still a lot of accidents going on there.”
Five people were killed in motor vehicle accidents on the existing narrow, two-lane highway between 2005 and 2008.
Guenther believes that a new highway will improve commercial trade in the Okanagan by making it easier for goods and services to be transported.
“The economic activity with the construction will also benefit the valley,” she said.
It’s expected the project will create more than 250 jobs during construction.
-Vernon Morning Star