Road traffic and tourism in Kamloops and the Okanagan are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Ministry of Transportation data shows a 6% increase in monthly average daily traffic compared to pre-pandemic traffic levels along the Coquihalla.

In 2019, the average daily number of traffic hit 13,743. This May shows an average of 14,600 vehicles. Last year and 2020 saw a significant decrease in traffic with the pandemic.

Last year had a daily average of 8,593, a 60% decrease from 2019 and 2020 saw a 42% drop with only a 9,671 daily vehicle average.

Traffic on the W.R. Bennett Bridge also saw a small increase in May compared to 2019, at 0.2%. This year saw a monthly average of daily traffic at 63,981 compared to 63,879 in 2019.

As expected, traffic on Kelowna's bridge decreased 35% in 2020 with 47,250 as a daily traffic average and a 9% decrease in 2021 compared to 2019 with 58,659.

Tourism Kelowna is anticipating a return to regular tourist numbers this summer season.

“We are seeing industry indicators that are up compared to the past two years (during the pandemic), and are close to pre-pandemic levels,” said Chris Shauf, communications manager with Tourism Kelowna, via email.

“This return to pre-pandemic levels is good news, but also important to note that return to pre-pandemic levels will need to be sustained for a good period of time to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

An increase in traffic numbers could also be reflective of the new residents moving to the region, he said.

In recent weeks, residents have complained about the volume of traffic ongoing along the Coquihalla and the Ministry of Transportation has warned of delays as repairs are being made to the highway following last fall’s floods. 

Permanent repairs to flood-damaged sections of the Coquihalla and Highway 1 will soon be underway, according to the ministry’s latest press release.

The contract for development and early construction work on sections of the Coquihalla between Hope and Merritt has been awarded to KEA5, a joint venture between Peter Kiewit and Sons and Emil Anderson Construction.

The work to return the Coquihalla to the previous full, four-lane capacity will begin this summer and take place at three sites: Bottletop Bridges, 50 kilometres south of Merritt, Juliet Bridges, three kilometres south of Bottletop and Jessica Bridges, 48 kilometres south of Juliet.

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