I read recently that the there is planning work underway for a second bridge for Kelowna. The current bridge is a weak spot in BC’s infrastructure – if a closure occurs (accident, weather) there is no reasonable alternate route. I can think of two purposes for a second bridge:
- Alternate Route in case of closure. In this case, a bridge close to downtown Kelowna would be more desirable.
- Bypass Route. In this case, the purpose would be to remove through traffic from Kelowna and West Kelowna entirely.
There are several alternatives for a Alternate Route bridge near downtown, and I’m not going to discuss those here. (Read ) Instead, I’m going to suggest a Bypass Route to remove through traffic from downtown Kelowna route entirely. My suggested route, South to North:
- Start at the current junction of Highways 97 and 97C and cross the lake to the southeast. This bridge would be around 480m elevation and would most likely need to be a suspension bridge.
- The route traverses the hillsides between the 500m to 700m elevation contour, avoiding existing buildings, passing south of Cedar Mountain Regional Park, until in the vicinity of the west edge of Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park where it would turn north. It may have to cross some portions of the provincial park to avoid existing developments. I would suggest any land taken by the highway be replaced in equivalent amount of land elsewhere around the park.
- From there, the route would drop down the hillsides to the “flat” farmland.
- Next, it would cross existing farmland as best as possible given the existing housing in the area until it reaches an interchange with Highway 33 just south of Springfield Road. Land acquisition and route planning will be most problematic in this stretch.
- The last stretch of this new route could follow Gibson and Old Vernon Roads to the north end of the Kelowna airport where it would curve west to rejoin Highway 97.
This Bypass Route would be called Highway 97C. This route is approximately 42km and should be built to full-freeway standard (90 to 110 km/hr).
To be truly a freeway, this route would only allow a few interchanges/access points:
- Chute Lake Road area
- Balldock Road area
- McCulloch Road area
- Highway 33
- McKenzie / Old Vernon area
- Anderson / Bullman area
Driving time on this route would be about 30 minutes from the south end of Ellison Lake to the Highway 97/97C junction with no red lights or stop and go traffic. This is a minimum savings of 10 minutes over mid-day driving conditions, and easily 20 minutes savings over rush hour.
The biggest show-stopper with this whole idea would be the Suspension Bridge at the south end of the route. It would need to be 4km long. I don’t have a resource to tell me the depths of the lake in that area. The bridge support pillars will need to be very tall, and embedded in the water. It’s not an impossible project, but it will be very expensive.