Chamber pres concerned over economic impact of extended Highway 97 closure

Penticton chamber president wants to bring the topic of alternate route to the board

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce president said the rock slide closing Highway 97, north of Summerland, may prompt the board to push for alternative routes through the area.

Cary Schneiderat said he suspects there have been adverse effects to South Okanagan businesses, but it has not been reported to the chamber directly.

Related: Highway 97 near Summerland still closed, alternate route highlighted

“The longer the closure, the greater the risk to all communities in the south that rely on that important transportation corridor. Not only does it affect business, but also individuals who may need to travel to Kelowna for medical appointments, etc.,” he said.

A rock slide on Thursday resulted in alternating lanes of traffic open on Highway 97. By Friday evening the highway was completely shut down following further rock slides.

Related: Driver films rock slide

Schneiderat said he wants to examine lobbying for an alternate route with the board.

“I will be raising this issue with the board to refer to our advocacy committee to determine if it would be in our members interest for us to lobby for a connection to Highway 33 to provide an alternative along the east side of the lake as an alternative route when Highway 97 is closed due to fire, rock slides, accidents or whatever,” said Schneiderat. “An accessible alternate route may also be useful to alleviate increased traffic along 97.”

Related: Penticton Search and Rescue rescues two drivers trying to bypass rockslide closure

The ministry of highways is recommending drivers of light vehicles use a gravel road, the 201 Forest Service Road, as an alternate route. The road, accessed from Carmi Avenue in Penticton and connecting to Highway 33 near McCollough Road in Kelowna, is being maintained by the Ministry, but some travellers have taken it on themselves to add some additional directional information, sharing on Facebook or even painting signs on snowbanks.

In a Facebook post that’s being widely shared, Warren Lee laid the directions out with odometers marks and photos for where turns need to be taken.

This route is estimated to add 90 minutes of additional travel time.

Heavier vehicles and commercial trucks are required to detour via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3A to Highway 3.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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