Detour will be constructed around rock slide

‘Considerable’ movement still occurring at rock face along Highway 97 north of Summerland

As crews continue to stabilize the site of a rock slide on Highway 97 north of Summerland, a detour will be constructed to allow motorists to bypass the site.

Paula Cousins, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Deputy Director for the Southern Interior Region, said the ministry has been working with local First Nations groups to get a detour put in place from Callan Road past the slide area and back to the highway.

This detour will require between 3,000 and 4,000 cubic metres of fill to construct a couple of hundred metres of connecting road.

Crews will work two 10-hour shifts each day for four to five days to get this detour in place, provided there are no unexpected issues during the construction.

At the site of the rock slide, crews are continuing to work to stabilize the rock face.

Eight scalers are on the rock face, supported by ropes, and two ground workers are assisting.

Over the past 24 hours, there was six to 11 millimetres of movement on the rock face.

Tom Kneale, Manager of Design Geohazards and Slope Stability with the ministry, described the movement as “considerable.”

The rock slide occurred on the evening of Jan. 31 and since last weekend, the road has been closed at the slide site.

“We understand the frustration and impact to local residents,” Cousins said.

At present, emergency vehicles cannot use Highway 97 past the rock slide because of safety concerns.

Earlier, pilot vehicles were able to escort emergency vehicles past the rock slide, but this has been halted. Emergency vehicles will be escorted past the slide once it is safe to do so.

Cousins said the bypass will add five to 15 minutes to the drive to or from Kelowna. The bypass will have a lower speed limit in place than on the rest of the highway.

The time for reopening the highway is not yet known. “I would not use the word ‘months’ at this point,” Cousins said.

Until the Callan Road bypass is put in place, two existing detours are in place.

One of the detours involved Highway 3A, Highway 3, Highway 5A and Highway 97.

Another detour, for vehicles five tonnes or less followed the 201 Forest Service Road. The road can be accessed via Warren Avenue and Carmi Avenue in Penticton and off Highway 33 near McCulloch Road in Kelowna. Signage and traffic control have been installed at both locations.

The speed limit along this road is 50 kilometres an hour.

While 201 Forest Service Road is a much shorter route, it is not open to larger commercial vehicles.

Argo Road Maintenance has been working to keep the road open and in good condition, but Cousins said good winter tires are highly recommended for motorists along this route.

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