WEST KELOWNA- Two big figures in West Kelowna are facing off over proposed changes to Highway 97.
Mayor Doug Findlater and the Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie are not seeing eye to eye when it comes to two new interchanges that may be built to increase traffic flow in West Kelowna.
The proposed improvements, at Boucherie and Westlake Roads, were brought to the table to eliminate the traffic lights at highway intersections. They would be similar to the interchange that was erected at Westside Road in 2011.
The Westbank First Nation would serve as general contractor for the construction.
Mayor Findlater thinks the changes would just lead to more congestion down the road. He thinks there are better ways to spend the estimated 80 million dollars the project needs; like investing in a new bypass that goes around the city.
“We’re asking that the province take a serious look at a better solution in the long term, which would be a perimeter road around West Kelowna,” he argues, “as opposed to starting a program and building interchanges on a high speed highway that jams up at the couplet in Westbank.”
The Westbank Chief disagrees.
“It’s an overall benefit, quite frankly, to anyone in the whole region,” Louie says. “Highway 97 is the main corridor through the Okanagan Valley and so if we can improve that corridor, especially at these key intersections, it’s something that has to be done. We’re very surprised that they City of West Kelowna wants to put these intersections on hold.”
Louie says that though a ring-road in the future may be a feasible option, the Mayor isn’t seeing the big picture.
“I think it’s important to deal with the bypass issue, but it’s not the number one priority.”
The public is encouraged to voice their opinion on the matter at open house forums. Residents can join the discussion at the Super 8 Hotel (1655 Westgate Road, West Kelowna) Wednesday until 8pm or at the Sensisyusten Multi-Purpose Facility (1920 Quail Lane, Westbank) Thursday.