Chute Creek Construction crews are among those working on the highway. A video posted to social media shows their crews building a lock block safety wall over the weekend.
“Crews are now working to build a 150-metre-long buttress between the wall and the bottom of the slope,” said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) in an email statement to Global News.
“There is currently no estimate on when the highway will reopen, pending the engineering assessments. However, the lock block wall and buttress will support a safe reopening of the highway when engineers deem it safe to do so.”
Engineers have given approval for one lane of Highway 97 to be cleared for emergency vehicles only, under specific site safety protocols.
In the meantime, non-emergency traffic will still have to detour through a neighbouring highway or forest service road.
For travel between Penticton and Kelowna:
- 201 Forest Service Road, accessed off Highway 33 near McCulloch Road southwest of Kelowna and via Fairview/Industrial/Dartmouth/Carmi avenues in Penticton.
For travel between Summerland and Peachland:
- Trout Main to Peachland Forest Service Road, accessed off Princeton Avenue in Peachland and Princeton Summerland Road in Summerland.
Both routes are meant for passenger vehicles and light commercial vehicles (maximum weight: 14,600 kilograms gross vehicle weight). Heavy transport trucks are being asked to use highways 97C, 5A, 3 or 33 as detours.
“That’s all we have right now. So, I know that the ministry is doing its best. They put washrooms up, there are porta potties and they put signage and they have an information booth up there on the 201 I think that is good,” Penticton MLA Dan Ashton.
“I want to thank them but if this does extend, we are all going to have to batten down and just accept what we’ve got to work with until this slide is resolved, it resolves itself.”
Despite the ministry actively working to maintain both forest service roads, Penticton’s Kal Tire reported Sunday a spike in flat tires from a number of drivers who used the preferred detours.
And Ashton says his phone has been ringing off the hook with similar concerns.
“The travelling public, please be careful out there. Please remember that they are rocky roads and drive within the speed limit that is posted,” said Ashton.
“I hear about broken windshields; I heard about punctured oil pans. So, all I’m asking is you do your best to ensure that we’re courteous while we use these tools on either side of the valley to get people mobile throughout the valley.”
The forest service roads are unpaved and will add up to 90 minutes of travel time.
“Graders are working continuously; however, drivers will still experience some rough conditions and should ensure their vehicles are properly equipped and fueled or charged,” read the MOTI statement.
“Cell coverage is very limited throughout both routes. Drivers are also encouraged to plan trips during daylight and drive with caution.”
According to the ministry, the slide is still moving, and geotechnical engineers continue to monitor and assess data from sensors at the slide site.