|Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray speaks to more than 200 people during the annual State of the City address to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Coast Capri Hotel on Wednesday.|
Mayor Walter Gray unveiled the city's grandiose plans Wednesday to extend Highway 33 from its intersection with Highway 97 through the North End to a new bridge across Okanagan Lake.
The mayor deviated from his 39-page prepared state-of-the-city speech to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce to outline the city's latest strategy to get a second Okanagan Lake crossing. Highway 33 would be extended from 97 past Enterprise Way and across the CNR tracks to a new four-lane roadway connecting to the latest section of Clement Avenue at Spall Road.
The city's proposed major highway paralleling Harvey Avenue/Highway 97 from the North End to Kelowna International Airport has had several names during the past 30 years, from the North End Connector to the Central Okanagan Bypass (at that point connected to a second crossing) to now Clement Avenue.
The NDP promised funding, then withdrew the offer, and the Liberals have consistently denied financial assistance for a local road.
"You've got to plan these things well in advance. When you are coming into the Okanagan Valley, it will say: Rutland, Beaverdell, Nelson, Highway 33, you go that way (on the new road). Downtown Kelowna, Vernon, Banff, Highway 97 as we do it right now," said Gray,
"You have to do these things one thing at a time. Unfortunately, we're talking a lot of money to do that section of road (to the lake); it could be $100 million. But if you don't start to dream, start to plan and start to excite people, nothing ever happens. It's on our agenda. It's certainly very long-term but the long term starts now."
The provincial government's long-standing policy is not to identify provincial road corridors beyond 10 years so it doesn't "sterilize" that land for potential other uses, explained Gray.
"In the next four-year term of this provincial government, whoever that government is, whoever that highways minister is at that time, somewhere during that four-year mandate, our statistics show we'll be pulling the trigger. We'll be making the announcement that we are now in the corridor identification stage," he said.
During that stage, all the land can be acquired to connect to a second crossing north or south of the Tolko Industries mill.
"A bridge needs to be built by 2025-27. There's no way around that. Harvey Avenue will be so jammed up by then as it was before the Bennett Bridge opened. What I'm talking about all leads step-by-step-by-step, eventually connecting to a bridge across the lake," said Gray.
His official speech outlined plans for $3-million, phase two of the Rails with Trails pathway which parallels the CNR tracks 1.5 kilometres from Spall Road to Dilworth Drive.
"We're hoping - cross our fingers - that within the next six weeks or so that we'll be able to make an announcement through the assistance of the provincial government with money the city already has from the gas money that we get from Ottawa. That will be incredible," he said.
"Now, we will have a very safe, off-road walking and bike route all the way from the downtown Kelowna halfway to the airport. In time, Rails with Trails will connect all the way to the UBCO campus and airport.
That missing portion from Spall to Dilworth would complete a continuous 19.5-kilometre loop of off-road pathways from the downtown to Rutland to the Mission Greenway and back downtown via the Abbott Street recreation corridor.
"It links employment hubs, such as the downtown and Landmark buildings, to where people live. It connects neighbourhoods, town centres and all the recreational amenities in the city," said Gray.
The Mill Creek linear pathway already provides a wide gravel trail from the foot of Dilworth Mountain behind the car dealerships on Enterprise Way to McCurdy Road, he noted.