BEEP BLEEP: Kelowna's commuting future will be lots of waiting around - InfoNews

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BEEP BLEEP: Kelowna's commuting future will be lots of waiting around

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
April 08, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - If nothing changes in the next 20 years you’re going to be sitting in traffic jams almost twice as long as you do today.

That’s one of the key messages coming out of the Central Okanagan Regional Transportation Plan that was outlined to Kelowna City Council today, April 8. While it outlined some possible options, some things appear likely to stay the same as the city grows.

“I can’t solve the congestion problem,” consultant Stephen Power told council.

The key bottleneck in the Central Okanagan is what Power calls the “Hourglass” in the Orchard Park area where the majority of vehicle trips in the entire region are either to, from or through.

By 2040, the population of the Central Okanagan is expected to grow by 77,000 or 38 per cent. That’s expected to increase the number of cars on the road by 47 per cent and the time it takes to get home during the peak travel hour is expected to take 75 per cent longer.

“That’s the worst case scenario, if nothing is done,” Mariah VanZerr, the city’s Strategic Transportation Planning Manager, said.

Today’s update was for one of five plans being drafted for the region that are mostly at a fairly early stage. The good news, VanZerr noted, is that all the different planning groups overlap and are working very well together.

Keys to cutting into future congestion are things like improved transit, getting more people living close to where they work and building new roads.

Right now, more than 80 per cent of trips in the region are made by car, well above provincial and national averages.

Some transit options being considered are to build bus stops in the median along Highway 97 or to put dedicated transit lanes along the Rail Trail corridor.

Improved transit from the Westside to Kelowna General Hospital is being studied but is complicated by the fact that Pandosy is too narrow for dedicated bus lanes while Richter is too far from the hospital.

Since Highway 97 is the main link through the region, Power stressed the need to have “redundant” routes, including upgrading Glenmore Road, extending Rutland, Acland and Bulman Roads through to the airport or push Jim Bailey Road south along the east side of Duck Lake.

Such options are just ideas at this point.

A public input session will be held April 24 at UBCO. People can sign up to join the session and review the plans at Smarttrips.ca.

PROJECTS UNDER CONSIDERATION FROM NORTH TO SOUTH

  • Upgrade the Glenmore/Beaver Lake roads intersection with Highway 97.
  • Connecting Jim Bailey Industrial Park to Kelowna Airport on the east side of Duck Lake.
  • Highway 97 to Kelowna Airport interchange.
  • Improve connection from UBCO to the airport.
  • Extending Rutland/Acland/Bulman roads to Kelowna Airport on the east side of Highway 97.
  • Four-laning Glenmore Road all the way to John Hindle Drive and adding more turn lanes and straightening curves further north.
  • The Rail Trail and the Central Okanagan Multi-Modal Corridor run together in some places and provide options for roads and transit.
  • Connect Burtch Road to KLO Road in the South and to Glenmore Road through a redeveloped Apple Bowl to the north.
  • What wasn’t mentioned at today’s meeting but is contained in the city’s 2018 Facts In Focus document on traffic, is that no bypass is planned for Kelowna since only 10 per cent of all trips go through the city without stopping and half the jobs in the city are within 800 metres of Highway 97. So, a bypass would have minimal impact on traffic congestion elsewhere.
  • The Bennett bridge is not expected to reach its capacity until 2040, although approaches may be a problem before then.

Even after 2040, a second bridge may not be needed. Some other options include:

  • Reversible middle lane.
  • Use existing pathway for transit.
  • Shuttle over the bridge.
  • Water taxi or ferry service.
  • Designs are currently being drafted for interchanges at Boucherie and Westlake roads, creating eight kilometres without traffic lights from downtown Kelowna to Bartley Road.
  • Upgrade Stevens Road to take pressure off Highway 97.
  • More work needs to be done to find the best way to remove the one-way couplet through downtown Westbank.
  • A decision will be made soon on whether to upgrade Highway 97 through Peachland or build a bypass.

 


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