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Penticton Chamber of Commerce calls for paved alternate highway route in wake of rockslide closure

Click to play video: 'Penticton Chamber of Commerce calls for paved alternate highway route in wake of rockslide closure'
Penticton Chamber of Commerce calls for paved alternate highway route in wake of rockslide closure
Penticton Chamber of Commerce calls for paved alternate highway route in wake of rockslide closure – Feb 18, 2019

The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce is advocating for a permanent alternate route between Penticton and Kelowna in the wake of the Highway 97 closure near Summerland.

President Cary Schneiderat said 76 per cent of members surveyed indicated they were affected by the lengthy highway closure prompted by a rockslide on Feb. 2, and the majority of impacted local businesses want to see an alternate route explored.

WATCH BELOW: (Aired Feb. 7, 2019) B.C. trucking industry impacted by multi-day Okanagan highway closure

Click to play video: 'B.C. trucking industry impacted by multi-day Okanagan highway closure'
B.C. trucking industry impacted by multi-day Okanagan highway closure

“With our geography, we’re communities that are built around a lake and mountains so however you look at it there are going to be costs involved, so it has to be a reasonable approach,” Schneiderat said on Monday.

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“Forest Service Road 201, the road already exists, it links up to Highway 33. Some of our members in the survey indicated that that might be an option,” he said.

“Pave it, turn that into a two-way regional highway and link it to [Highway] 33 and connect through Kelowna that way, so if we have problems on the west side of the lake then there is a ready-to-go alternative on the east side.”

The local Chamber of Commerce recently issued a press release that said the closure caused businesses additional delivery costs, late arrivals of product, cancellation of orders and many angry customers.

Click to play video: 'Okanagan residents react to multi-day closure of Highway 97'
Okanagan residents react to multi-day closure of Highway 97

WATCH ABOVE: (Aired Feb. 4, 2019) Okanagan residents react to multi-day closure of Highway 97

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It also resulted in staff shortages with many employees travelling from West Kelowna, Kelowna and Peachland to work in Penticton.

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“Any delay is a harm to business so we encouraged the authorities to open those accessible routes as soon as possible. In some respects they opened quite quickly, in other respects, we wish there was options available to us,” Schneiderat said.

Highway 97 was fully closed north of Summerland for one week before the Callan Road detour, just below the highway, was opened to commuters and commercial vehicles.

However, there are still restrictions for large trucks. Commercial vehicles that exceed 3.8 metres in width are only permitted on the detour between midnight and 5 a.m.

“It’s still creating some delays with some of our members getting their products and supplies, so some delays in business,” he said.

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As business gets back to usual, Schneiderat said a long-term regional strategy is warranted before there is another closure.

“It will happen again, it’s inevitable in the area that we live so we just have to be, hopefully, prepared,” he said.

There is still no estimated time for when the highway will reopen.

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