Vehicles are tentatively expected to start moving again Wednesday on Highway 97 north of Summerland, which will come as a relief for commuters and the owner of La Punta Norte.
The phone keeps ringing at the bed and breakfast near the blocked-off section of the highway, but callers aren’t potential guests. They’re just phoning to see if Colleen Davis can tell them what’s going on with efforts to clear the highway.
“I guess because we’re so close to where the closure is, we can tell them how the work is going,” Davis said Tuesday.
Other callers wonder if Davis can tell them of a “secret way” around the highway closure site. (Save the long distance charge; there isn’t one.)
La Punta is a few hundred metres from where the slide occurred last weekend. Since then, crews have removed thousands of cubic metres of rock in an effort to stabilize the slope and make it safe for the highway to reopen.
“While we are hoping to have the road reopened to traffic (Wednesday) afternoon, this depends on the progress that is made (Tuesday),” the B.C. Transportation Ministry said in a statement.
Early cleanup work focused on bringing down any remaining material so that it could be hauled away in trucks.
“The blasting that took place at the site (Monday) went well, as approximately 100 cubic metres of material was brought down, resulting in improved access at the site,” the ministry’s statement explained.
“Now that the hill is more accessible, we have been able to increase the number of rock scalers from seven up to 10 . . . and we now have two excavators and a rock hammer on site to keep building the access up the slope.”
More drilling and blasting took place Tuesday to bust up large boulders and rock slabs.
“Once this debris is removed, geotechnical engineers will re-assess the slope to determine what other steps need to be taken,” the ministry said.
A number of detours are available to get drivers around the slide area, but the shortest still adds 90 minutes to the usual commute time between Penticton and Kelowna. That route takes drivers east from Penticton over the 201 Forest Service Road to Highway 33.