Highway traffic in Westbank could be lowered into a trench, with overhead pedestrian and road crossings.
A dug-down Dobbin Road, with interchanges at either end of downtown Westbank, is one of the options presented in a new report from the Ministry of Transportation.
Keeping through traffic on a new trenched highway would allow parallel Main Street to become a pedestrian-friendly local street, according to an option outlined in a study on long-range transportation improvements in the Central Okanagan.
“Place Highway 97 in a trench on Dobbin Road with crossings at Herbert, Elliott and Brown Roads,” the report says.
Another option is to move all highway traffic onto Dobbin Road, but leave it as a surface street.
Highway 97 was rebuilt as two one-way streets (Dobbin northbound and Main southbound) through downtown Westbank in the 1980s. City of West Kelowna officials say the couplet configuration is detrimental to downtown Westbank’s long-sought revitalization.
“We’d like our downtown back,” West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said last year, referring to the municipality’s desire to either move all highway traffic onto Dobbin or, more preferably, build a highway bypass around the municipality.
The bypass option is examined in the report, details of which will be presented at an open house from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Westbank Lions Hall.
Two starting points for a possible Westside bypass are identified — one on Highway 97C (Okanagan Connector) opposite the Trepanier Road interchange, and one at the interchange of Highway 97C and Highway 97 between Westbank and Peachland.
From either point, the bypass would loop up above upper Glenrosa, along what the ministry says would be a mountain-grade elevation change.
After crossing a new bridge over Powers Creek, the bypass would skirt the north side of Westbank and Shannon Lake, connecting to a new interchange at Bartley Road.
From there, the bypass would continue north, cut through part of Rose Valley Regional Park, and almost reach Bear Creek Provincial Park before looping back to connect to a second bridge across Okanagan Lake.
The looping portion, 14 kilometres in length, is the only viable route for a bypass given the built-up nature of the area, ministry officials say.
The various transportation options are being considered as part of a long-range planning exercise. No construction costs are currently associated with any of the options.
By 2040, the ministry says, the five-lane William R. Bennett Bridge will reach capacity in its current configuration.