Detour under construction at Highway 97 rock slide near Summerland, B.C.
Ministry of Transportation hopes to have it ready in 4 to 5 days
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced Thursday it's building a detour around the area of a rock slide between Peachland and Summerland, B.C., that's closed Highway 97.
That follows news that a "new and significant crack" has developed on the slope where crews have been working to restore the major Okanagan route.
Crews will be building a two-lane connector from the highway to Callan Road, which runs east of the highway, to create a detour which they hope will open in four to five days, said Paula Cousins, deputy director for the ministry's Southern Interior Region.
"It doesn't connect back to the highway currently, so the plan is to build a connection about 50 to 75 metres south of the site to reconnect it to Highway 97," said Cousins.
"The Callan Road detour is not likely to add significant time to the commute once it's completed because it is close to the highway," said Cousins.
"I would suggest the maximum additional commute time will probably be between five and 15 minutes."
The highway is the main transportation corridor between Kelowna and Penticton and many locals have complained that official detours have extended their regular commute by hours since the highway shutdown last weekend.
"[The new detour] is not going to be a significant addition to travel time. Not not like what motorists are facing today," said Cousins.
Until the new detour opens, drivers are being asked to continue taking assigned alternate routes.
The highway closure has taken a toll on some local businesses.
Peachland resident Rod Sawatzky said he has temporarily shut down his home-building business because it takes him three hours each way to get to his project site in Summerland via a detour down to Princeton.
"Six hours a day is just ridiculous," said Sawatzky.
"It leads to a lot of frustration for my clients and the people that are also working on the job."
Sawatzky said the announcement of a new detour opening in four to five days is welcome news.
"Something has to be done. So, at least if you have some outline of what you're going to be dealing with, then you can plan accordingly."
Crews are using hand drills at the slide site rather than heavier drilling equipment because there is still significant slope movement.
"If we're getting those kind of identified shifts or movements in the landmass they're concerning especially when we're dealing with a rock failure like we've got here," said geotechnical engineer Tom Kneale.
with files from Brady Strachan