Bus transportation, as well as other alternative forms of moving people and goods around the Central Okanagan, will be part of a new regional transportation plan.—Image: Capital News file

Work kicks off on first regional transportation plan for Central Okanagan

Municipal councils being asked for input in “visioning workshops”

The first steps have been taken towards a regional transportation plan for the Central Okanagan.

Kelowna city council participated in what was called a “visioning workshop” Monday—a gathering to get input about what council members want to see addressed in the plan.

Similar workshops will be held with municipal councils in Lake Country, West Kelowna and Peachland, as well as with the Westbank First Nation Council. in the coming weeks

Consultant Stephen Power told Kelowna council the plan is more than just a look at the local road network. It will include all forms of transportation, as well as how to people move to and from what he described as “regional” destinations inth area.

But while the plan will look out as far as 2040, at least one councillor said he wants to see it look even farther, so steps are made to prepare for the day when services such as light rapid transit connecting the entire Okanagan Valley arrive.

Charlie Hodge said if that long-range view is not made, and planning starts to facilitate it later, the plan will simply repeat what has been done before.

But Mayor Colin Basran defended the current process.

“We have to crawl before we walk,” said Basran told Hodge, with Coun. Gail Given, who is chairwoman of the Central Okanagan Regional District adding: “And we have to walk before we drive.”

Power said while the plan is confined to the Central Okanagan—in part because of conditions of the gas tax grant that is partially funding it—linkages with Vernon and Penticton can be talked about. They will not, however, be the focus, he said

Preliminary steps have been made for the regional transportation plan including four “pop-up” open houses held last year in Kelowna, Lake Country, West Kelowna and Peachland. A total of about 250 people turned out for the four sessions, said Power and the participants contributed input about what they would like to see in the plan.

Like council, they said some of that included not just roads and the movement of people and goods in automobiles, but alternative forms of transportation such as walking and cycling. Power said some of the issues that wil also need to be looked at closely is the impact of technology on future transportation needs requirements.

The plan’s vision statement says it is an attempt to create a “balanced and resilient transportation plan for the Central Okanagan that moves people and goods in a safe, efficient, accessible and affordable manner, while supporting and enhancing the region’s economy, social network and natural ecosystem.”

The plan is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

Meanwhile, the province has put the study it is conducting on the Highway 97 corridor through the Central Okanagan on hold. That study is looking at, among other things, a second crossing of Okanagan Lake.

A second crossing was not mentioned at he Kelowna council session Monday until near the end, when Coun. Luke Stack raised it as something that should be considered as part of a regional transportation plan.

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