June 12, 2015 - 10:34 AM
VERNON - It wouldn’t be built, or required, for another 25 to 65 years, but Vernon council is starting to plan for a potential bypass around the city.
It’s been talked about for years, but today’s council is taking a firm stance on the need to start planning, and protecting a corridor for it, now.
“We know it’s not going to happen in our lifetime,” Mayor Akbal Mund says. “If you don’t put it in, you’re not thinking about the generations ahead.”
The city estimates by the time Vernon’s population hits 67,000 (around the year 2080) the city’s current road network will no longer be able to accommodate the volume of traffic — assuming current driving trends continue. A 2008-2031 transportation plan for the city looked at three possible highway bypass routes to relieve congestion on Highway 97: using the existing rail corridor for an elevated highway (now deemed unfeasible) or going around the city via the west side or east side. The cost identified in 2008 for a western bypass route was between $500 million and $625 million.
While the city can set land aside for a future corridor, the Ministry of Transportation has the final say about when, and if, a highway bypass will be constructed around Vernon.
A bypass could be used by locals and visitors alike, but Mund isn't worried about tourists bypassing Vernon altogether.
“Vernon is a destination stop, people plan to stop here,” Mund says, adding he doubts what happened in Oyama when the new highway was built around the community would happen in Vernon. “A small community would be impacted by that change more than a large community, and Vernon is not a small city.”
Council has asked transportation staff to look into options for where a bypass could go, and Mund says the planning will go from there.
“You’ve got to look at it now, not 20 years from now, when… that land is already gone,” Mund says.
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