Okanagan Indian Band drum group Little Hawk at the official opening of the new Highway 97 through Lake Country.

Okanagan Indian Band drum group Little Hawk at the official opening of the new Highway 97 through Lake Country.

Winfield to Oyama rerouting of Highway 97 complete

The $77.9 million road project is finished on time and on budget.

The new four-lane nine-kilometre section of Highway 97 between Winfield and Oyama will officially open to traffic at 7p.m. today.

“Our government is proud to have partnered with the province on this important initiative that will enhance safety and ease traffic congestion for residents and travellers along this heavily-used section of Highway 97,” said Kelowna—Lake Country MP Ron Cannan.

“Our investments are delivering real results for the Okanagan Valley, and we will continue to support projects that create good local jobs and promote long-term economic growth in the region.”

“Highway 97 will improve travel for residents and visitors to the Okanagan by making transportation safer and more efficient,” added Kelowna—Lake Country MLA  Norm Letnick. “This project will also strengthen our economy by improving commercial traffic flow through this important corridor, and has the added environmental benefit of a route that protects our scenic lakefront spaces.”

The $77.9-million project was completed on time and on budget and funded under the Building Canada Fund. The B.C. government invested $51.1 million and the federal government  funded $26.8 million. Approximately 400 direct jobs were created over the life of the project.

“This is a momentous event in history for Lake Country and we wish to thank our provincial and federal representatives for their strong support of this project to improve Highway 97,” said Lake Country Mayor James Baker. “The new highway will provide an improved travel route with access to two areas of our community, and the previous highway will be renamed Pelmewash Parkway and it will provide the community with an opportunity to develop a significant recreational corridor along Wood Lake.”

The new four-lane stretch was constructed west of the existing highway above Wood Lake, with a 100 km/hour speed limit. Crews built two truck climbing lanes for slower moving traffic and installed a concrete median barrier for added safety.

The project included two overpasses near Oceola Road at the south end of Wood Lake and Gatzke Road at the north end, to connect the existing highway to the new one. Two underpasses were built at Old Mission Road and Lake Country Access to provide access to Crown land on the west side of the highway.

The ministry worked in strong partnership with the Westbank First Nation and the Okanagan Indian Band to preserve heritage values along the highway. Archaeological works were undertaken by the ministry’s consultant and members of both local First Nations bands, in order to protect archaeological sites found along the corridor.

The ministry also took all necessary measures to ensure that local wildlife was undisturbed by the project. Two environmentally sensitive areas with bat habitat were preserved for the bats to continue to live in the area. Lizards and rattle snakes found along the route during construction were captured and relocated to two newly constructed reptile dens.