August 17, 2013 - 3:38 PM
LAKE COUNTRY - For those who use Highway 97 along Wood Lake fearing for their lives on a daily basis, it's a glorious day.
The new four-lane section of the road between Winfield and Oyama is officially open to traffic at 7 p.m. today.
The heavily used section of highway has been deadly, with fatal car crashes a regular occurrence. It is also an extremely congested section of road, especially during the summer months as tourists with campers and boats make their way between the North and Central Okanagan.
Kelowna Lake Country MP Ron Cannan says the new nine kilometer roadway is built for safety, and though the speed limit got a boost with the project, police will be on the watch for reckless driving.
"At the other end I've been told there's some outstanding individuals from our national police force who might present you with a certificate if you don't obey the law," he says.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick joined Cannan at the opening today and says there should be over 26,000 cars travelling the route per daily.
"Highway 97 will improve travel for residents and visitors to the Okanagan by making transportation safer and more efficient," Letnick says.
The new stretch of highway cost taxpayers $77.9 million dollars. It created 400 direct jobs during construction.
The new road will have a 100 km/h speed limit and includes two truck climbing lanes for slower traffic.
What today is a modern highway was once an elder's trail used by First Nations.
Westbank First Nation chief Robert Louie says they signed an accommodation agreement in 2011 with the Ministry of Transportation to ensure the archeological protection of the heritage site.
"This project has been very challenging because the deposits here were very deep and there were known ancestral remains buried here. Those remains are still here located close to this site," he says.
As for the old highway, it's been renamed the Pelmewash Parkway and will be downgraded to a municipal roadway with a lower speed limit for those who want to enjoy a more leisurely drive, cycle or walk along the lakefront.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013