Two forest service roads connecting South Okanagan to Kelowna have been opened offering shorter detours from the rock slide that closed Highway 97 north of Summerland.
The 201 Forest Service Road in Penticton and the Trout Creek Forest Service connecting Summerland to Peachland have been graded and extra signage put in, according to Steve Sirett, the executive director of the Southern Interior MoTI’s highways.
“We’ve had graders working since yesterday (Wednesday) and signage has gone up on both routes,” said Sirett. They are restricting truck traffic to five tonne trucks, like a UPS truck size. Semis will continue to use the official detour.
The recommended alternate routes for rigs are highways 97C, 5A, 3 or 33. The average time is four hours when taking 97C and 5A to Highway 3.
There will be patrolling of the forest service routes, tow trucks, and porta potties. Highway contractors will continue to maintain the route while Highway 97 remains closed, he added.
Many have complained that the 201 is kicking up a lot of dust, making for little to no visibility at times.
MoTI are hoping to get dust suppressants on both routes soon, he responded.
The highway that connects South Okanagan to Central Okanagan has been closed since Monday’s rock slide.
MoTI is recommended everyone choosing these routes have a full tank of gas, food and water and have their headlights on the entire trip.
The 201 is taking about one hour and 40 minutes from Penticton to Kelowna.
The number one priority is to have Highway 97 back open to traffic, said Sirett.
But the geoassessment done on Tuesday revealed significant cracks and movement on the rockface, indicating a chance of further rock fall.
“We’ve identified significant tension cracks that are two to three meters wide and five meters deep. That tells us there is massive materials that are moving.”
MoTI has installed monitoring equipment to better understand the level of risk and how much movement is taking place.
“Because of the complexity, it’s going to take time,” Sirett added.
There is no timeline set for opening but MoTI is mindful of the inconvenience this is causing and are working hard to get the highway open again, especially for emergency vehicles.
“The ministry recognizes the inconvenience to travellers and people’s patience is appreciated as work continues to reopen the highway as soon as safely possible,” said the Ministry in their press release.
This week Penticton MLA Dan Ashton is pushing for better messaging from DriveBC and the Ministry of Transportation than just another update will take place in a few hours.
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