Officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure showcased an impressive plan this week to upgrade Highway 97 just south of town, which could potentially save lives with two new overpasses and six more kilometres of four-laning.
Local residents expected to be impacted by the estimated $30 million project, one of many proposed in Phase Two of the ministry’s long-term vision for Highway 97 in the Interior, turned out to an open house Tuesday evening at the Tourism Discovery Centre.
“It’s all about increasing mobility through the corridor,” said Todd Hubner, district manager. “We want to improve safety and improve mobility.”
The functional design displayed at the open house indicated the project will begin where the 150 Mile House four-laning project left off, just south of the Williams Lake Indian Band community of Sugar Cane.
From that starting point, the highway will be widened and realigned to eliminate two sharp corners with a single flatter curve near Mission Road where there have been multiple accidents in the existing corners, including a single-vehicle fatality in recent weeks which claimed the life of a Lac La Hache man.
From Mission Road north, the ministry plans to improve intersections and access to WLIB lands for their future developments, as well as safer access for Sutton and Lexington subdivision residents.
“We have been in close discussions with the (WLIB) community so that we can incorporate their vision,” Hubner said of plans for future commercial and residential development slated for the area by WLIB.
Sutton subdivision resident Jeff Singlehurst, one of the many residents in the area to be impacted by the project, attended the open house.
“That’s going to be neat on the access,” said Singlehurst of the plan. “That’s really good — I’m happy about that.”
Singlehurst said he’s seen four accidents in as many years where highway traffic has gone off the road and down the embankment coming to rest in the Sutton neighbourhood.
The ministry’s plan to install guardrails along that section aims to mitigate that risk. As well, a new overpass planned to replace the current access in the area is designed to reduce accidents caused from drivers attempting to cross two lanes of traffic, Hubner said.
Now, ministry staff will review public input from the open house as they move the project from a functional design to a detailed one, Hubner said.
“In a perfect world we’d start construction in 2015,” he said, noting property acquisition from residents living along Highway 97 is “a larger component of the project” which could take time.