On-site detour pitched for Hwy. 97 rock slide

Special to OsoyoosToday

An on-site detour is being built around a rock slide on Hwy 97 between Peachland and Summerland.

Construction crews are linking a second part of Callan Road to the highway. The detour should be open by Monday or Tuesday.

It will offer drivers a much faster way to get between Peachland and Summerland than is currently possible using the 201 Forest Service Road on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Delays are expected to be between five and 15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions, Ministry of Transportation staff suggested Thursday during a press conference.

All types of vehicles, including heavy trucks, will be allowed on the Callan Road detour. It will be one lane in either direction.

Crews are working two 10-hour shifts to build the second Callan Road link to the highway. About 4,000 cubic metres of fill is being deposited on the highway right-of-way to build the new link, which covers a distance of about 200 metres.

The Callan Road detour is sufficiently distant from the rock slide site that engineers have determined it is safe to use, said Paula Cousins, a ministry deputy director for the Southern Interior.

Meanwhile, there remains no estimate of when Hwy. 97, closed five days ago, will reopen to traffic. The slope where the slide occurred moved between six and 11 millimetres from Wednesday to Thursday, a distance called “concerning” by ministry staff.

The degree of movement on the slope means heavy equipment cannot be used on the site. Eight rock scalers were using hand tools on Thursday, and the overall plan to deal with the rock slide was being reassessed.

Asked if the highway closure might extend for months, Ms. Cousins said: “I would not use the term months at this point.”

The highway was closed last Saturday. The forest service road detour, which adds more than an hour to the normal travel time between Kelowna and Penticton, was opened on Monday.

It is reported by BC Transportation to have “good, winter driving conditions.”

“Our maintenance contractor is maintaining 201 FSR and, as snow continues to fall, has dedicated extra equipment and will be plowing/sanding the road if necessary,” it reported by Twitter. “Drivers using this route should have good winter tires, obey the speed limit and drive with caution.”

— Penticton Herald


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