It’s the news everyone has been waiting for: On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed that Highway 97 at the Summerland slide site will be open to single-lane alternating traffic in less than two weeks.
“If everything goes well, we will have single-lane alternating traffic open in the northbound lanes by the weekend of Sept. 16,” said MOTI spokesperson Steve Sirett, the executive director of the Southern Interior highways.
“The crews worked really hard over the long weekend to build a lock block wall so now the next step is to build a large berm in the southbound lanes,” Sirett added.
The priority has always been to get the highway open in some capacity, he said.
“We absolutely recognize the impact this closure has had. The alternative routes are functioning but are not the ideal.”
During the long weekend, Penticton contractors Chute Creek Construction built the large lock block wall to protect the highway from falling rock. Crews are now working on the 150-metre-long buttress, the ministry said.
“Geotechnical engineers continue to monitor and assess data from sensors at the slide site. The sensors show a steady continuing movement of the slope and the highway remains closed to protect public safety due to the risk of further rockfall.”
While the target is to open the highway by Sept. 16, it will be dependent on monitoring the slide and making sure crews are safe.
“We will be following all safety protocols,” said Sirett.
It was on Aug. 28, when large boulders and power poles came crashing down onto Highway 97 north of Summerland.
The rockfall has closed the highway ever since, cutting off the South Okanagan from Central Okanagan.
The extended closure has caused hardship for those working on either side of the slide.
Some have been taking the 201 Forest Service Road or Peachland to Summerland Trout Creek road, which adds up to 90 minutes of travel time to their daily commute.
Both gravel roads are being graded daily but there are areas where it is washboard and dust continues to be an issue for visibility. There have also been some accidents already on both remote roads and with little to no cell service, it’s not a long-term solution.
Others have been staying with friends or family during the week while they work.
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