Second bridge in Central Okanagan not a solution to traffic congestion, says ministry

06 Oct 2023 | Canada | 116 |
Second bridge in Central Okanagan not a solution to traffic congestion, says ministry

The W.R. Bennett Bridge is the only direct connection between Kelowna and West Kelowna, but it gets heavily congested at times.

And even though it’s been long talked about, a second crossing isn’t coming anytime soon.

“A second crossing is something that people have felt very passionate about,” said Steve Sirett, district manager with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“But the amount of effort and planning that we have done over the last 20 years has told us that a second crossing is not the solution to solve the congestion issues.”

In unveiling its 20-year transportation plan for the Central Okanagan, the Ministry of Transportation revealed that a second crossing would have no overall network benefit and would only increase the number of vehicles on the roads.

“When you built the second crossing, it creates something called induced demand, so it creates more trips that people otherwise wouldn’t have taken which, you know, goes against our sort of goals of sustainable transportation choices and moving people more efficiently than rather than moving more cars,” Sirett said.

But in West Kelowna, where residents are particularly hard-hit with the bridge congestion, the idea of not including a  second crossing in the long-term plans is being met with disappointment.

“It would be great, everyone wants one,” said West Kelowna resident Darren Matity.

“Disappointed, I guess, but I wasn’t really expecting them to do a second bridge,” said Janine Hall, another West Kelowna resident.

However, the ministry believes improving overall traffic flow along Highway 97 is far more important than a second crossing.

It cites improvements such as interchanges at certain intersections as projects that are in the 20-year plans.

It also said there’s room within the current bridge system to accommodate more traffic.

“The bridge itself has lots of capacity to 2040 and even beyond, and we’ve got ways to increase that capacity,” Sirett said.

One of those ways is adding an eastbound lane so that there would be three lanes heading into Kelowna from West Kelowna, just like the three coming the other way.

Another priority over a second crossing is an improved transit system.

“A large focus of our strategy is on trying to build a more robust transit system and making transit more attractive and more of a better use of people’s time than what it currently is,” Sirett said.

Kelowna mayor Tom Dyas agreed that there are bigger priorities

“I think the planning needs to be around alternative route considerations knowing what happened down in Summerland this year on Highway 97,” Dyas said.

Dyas referred to a number of landslides that occurred in Summerland and forced Highway 97 to shut down, forcing motorists to take forest service roads to travel between the Central and South Okanagan.

Dyas added that even though a second crossing isn’t currently in the 20-year strategy, plans are subject to change.

“Those plans are always revisited, so even though it is a plan that they are implementing, that is 20 years from now, five years from now or 10 years from now. It may be something that is incorporated into their plans,” Dyas said.

by Global News