KELOWNA - With the current Okanagan lake bridge expected to reach capacity by 2040, a second crossing seems inevitable — but where exactly will it go?
The Ministry of Transportation is showing its plan for a new highway through Kelowna and West Kelowna at open houses in the Kelowna area this week to gather public input.
Potential points for a second bridge crossing have been narrowed down to three main options - all relatively close to the existing W.R. Bennett Bridge.
These include a crossing from either south of Old Ferry Wharf Road to the south end of Bear Creek Provincial Park, bridging that span from the south end of Poplar Point or even the south end of Manhattan Point. The third option is to expand the current crossing by adding a parallel bridge beside the existing one.
Currently there are four options of how to approach a new bridge, all passing through the north end of Kelowna’s downtown, connecting with Clement Avenue.
Three potential routes would continue along Clement, one cutting through Manhattan Point, one just north of Rotary Marshes and one turning at Richter Street to the current mill. The fourth option would curve north earlier, meeting up at the base of Knox Mountain.
According to the ministry report, previous studies surrounding an alternative crossing showed a only a small amount of traffic would be diverted from the existing route if the bridge was outside of downtown Kelowna.
In addition to a new lake crossing, the report shows numerous possible changes to the current Highway 97 corridor.
Along the highway, from UBC Okanagan to West Kelowna, the ministry is considering three main ideas in order to alleviate traffic congestion. Creating a six lane highway with grade-separated interchanges, a median express lane and an elevated express lane are all being considered.
"Right now we're trying to give people options," Senior Project Director, Murray Tekano said.
Currently, the ministry is in phase two of the project, and holding open houses to gather input on the proposed changes. This portion of public engagement is expected to be completed within a year, according to Tekano.
"The main challenge we're facing is balancing safety with transportation needs, while having a minimum impact on the community," Tekano said.
A cost for the proposed projects is not being disclosed at this time, but according to Tekano, an extremely rough idea of potential costs has been discussed.
The Ministry of Transportation has been working on the Central Okanagan Planning Study since 2014.
An open house will be held in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 28 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a third open house will be held at the same time in West Kelowna on Thursday, March 30, at the Westbank Lions Community Hall.
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