Sixth lane contemplated for Bennett bridge — second crossing is not
One of the options the provincial government is considering for improving traffic flow through the Central Okanagan is a possible sixth lane on the Bennett Bridge connecting Kelowna to West Kelowna.
Two interchanges in West Kelowna and a dedicated transit lane along Highway 97 are also under consideration.
“The Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy is evaluating the W.R. Bennett Bridge to identify opportunities to increase capacity of the existing structure, which could include adding a sixth lane or counterflow lane,” states an email from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to iNFOnews.ca.
The province began studying a second crossing of the lake in 2015 but that work “paused” in 2018 because, the email says, local transportation studies were launched.
Those studies culminated in a regional transportation plan that was adopted in December 2020. That was before the results of the 2021 census were released that showed the region to be the fastest growing in the country.
The provincial government has now resumed its work and expects to complete it later this year.
READ MORE: If you think Bennett Bridge is crowded now, just wait until it actually fills up
The email implies that a second crossing is not being considered in the transportation strategy.
“It will be the springboard in which improvements will be advanced along the Highway 97 corridor in the Central Okanagan over the next 20 years,” the email says. “The strategy will... deliver a comprehensive strategy of multi-modal (including walking, cycling, transit and driving) transportation solutions that will increase the people-moving capacity along the Highway 97 corridor through Central Kelowna and into West Kelowna.”
Along with the possibility of a sixth or counterflow lane on the bridge, it suggests a “fast and reliable transit spine” along the highway.
READ MORE: Transit, not a second crossing, is the solution for Central Okanagan's bridge, highways: planners
Long talked about interchanges in West Kelowna are also in the planning stages.
“The ministry is currently in the design phase for interchanges at Boucherie Road and Westlake Road in West Kelowna,” the email says. “The ministry is working closely with the City of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation. The completion of these designs will inform future funding requests for construction.”
The ministry also references an overpass at Westlake Road but it’s not clear if an overpass is also being designed for Boucherie Road.
“The Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy is considering all aspects of the Highway 97 corridor through the Central Okanagan, including the W.R. Bennett Bridge, its approaches and other arterial components (intersections and interchanges) that currently operate at less-than-optimal service levels,” the email says.
The email was in response to a request from iNFOnews.ca sent June 22 asking for an interview on the transportation strategy.
To date, no interview has been scheduled.
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