It is a project designed to improve safety and traffic flow but plans to build a new interchange in West Kelowna are being met with strong opposition.
“I prefer it didn’t happen,” West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said.
The B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry plans to build the interchange at Highway 97 and Boucherie Road but the majority of city council, including the mayor, are against it.
“I am very concerned that we are going to see a lot of highway level traffic pushed onto what are basically collector and residential streets in our community,” Findlater said. “I think the ministry will have to step up to the plate and help us do these kinds of upgrades. It will be intolerable for people to have that kind of volume and speed of traffic tearing down those streets for four years.”
The Transportation Ministry can’t provide any details including the price tag of the project at this time because of the upcoming provincial election but it’s expected to cost anywhere between $50 to $80 million. While the project will be funded provincially, it’s an expense Councillor Rosalind Neis has a hard time justifying, saying it all comes from the taxpayer’s pocket.
“As a Councillor and as a taxpayer I can’t in good conscience support the expense,” Neis said. “Although we all like to have the money spent in our area and I understand that, but as a taxpayer I have a real concern about the cost of the project, the timing of the project and the necessity of the project at this time.”
But the interchange project does have the support of at least one council member. Councillor Rick de Jung is very surprised the other members of council oppose the project.
“I’m very much in support of it. Eighty per cent of the residents that work in West Kelowna are commuting through that corridor and across that highway to come to Kelowna where their jobs are located and from my perspective it kind of makes sense,” de Jong said. “If the province is willing to put tens of millions of dollars forward to improve interchanges along that corridor, why wouldn’t we as a local municipality, as a local city, grab onto that money and support it?”
But council isn’t backing down. It’s drafting a letter to the Province against the project. It would like to see the money invested into a more appropriate alternative like a bypass around the city.