Highway improvements

Looking north, on Highway 97, the primary highway corridor through the Central Okanagan.

More buses and less cars – that’s the future of the Highway 97 corridor through the Central Okanagan, if we’re ever going to do something about congestion.

Kelowna city councillors will hear this and more from a provincial delegation from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure bearing key findings and recommendations from the Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy.

The aim of the strategy – and all the regional plans that underpin it – have the stated goal of improving the primary highway corridor through the Central Okanagan, says a backgrounder by City of Kelowna strategic transportation planning manager Mariah VanZerr.

That includes the Regional Transportation Plan endorsed by all six Central Okanagan governments in late 2020, VanZerr noted.

The presentation will highlight several key recommendations consistent with the provincial policy of reducing distance driven and a shift to sustainable transportation.

VanZerr says the recommendations are aligned with the Official Community Plan, current city policy and adopted plans such as the transportation master plan and the regional transportation plan.

That includes boosting transit ridership with the possible introduction of an east-bound bus-only lane on the Bennett Bridge and median transit lanes along, the highway in Kelowna.

Roadway improvements are also recommended including an extension to Clement Avenue, fixing the Commonwealth Road intersection and upgrades near Kelowna International Airport.

Removing the couplet in the Westbank town centre is also suggested as well as construction of interchanges for Boucherie and Westlake Roads.

The strategy also suggests adopting a functional classification system for the highway, recognizing during planning and design the “various urban, semi-urban and rural land use contexts” the road traverses through Kelowna and the Central Okanagan.

Construction and maintenance of Highway 97 is the responsibility of the province but VanZerr praised the approach the government is taking.

“The City has been looking to the province for many years to understand its priorities for improvements along the highway corridor,” she writes. “While it has taken time, the approach taken by the province has been to allow Central Okanagan governments to complete their own Regional Transportation Plan before completing provincial planning work. The result is a provincial strategy for the highway that incorporates feedback from Central Okanagan governments, including the City of Kelowna, and will help us advance and implement our own plans.”

City council will receive the provincial delegation at its regular public council meeting at 1:30 p.m., Monday, at Kelowna City Hall.