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Highway 97 rockslide: Full reopening will require cliff blasting

File photo of the berm constructed on Highway 97 near Summerland following a rockslide that closed the road for two weeks earlier this year. Ministry of Transportation

Motorists in the Okanagan received a double dose of good news this week regarding Highway 97 and the rockslide area near Summerland.

Not only did officials open the highway to two lanes on Friday, but the Ministry of Transportation discussed long-term plans for the troubled section.

In an interview with Global News, a ministry spokesperson said future plans include blasting the massive rock cliff to prevent more slides.

Click to play video: 'Highway 97 partially reopens near Summerland'
Highway 97 partially reopens near Summerland

Until then, motorists will continue to deal with ongoing repairs, including crews building a 150-metre-long large berm and block wall at the base of the cliff and extending onto two of the highway’s four lanes.

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“The slide (area) continues to show stable to little to no movement,” said ministry spokesperson Steve Sirett. “We’ve been able to get some additional monitoring equipment there, including some real-time monitoring.”

That allowed highway officials to open the highway from single-lane, alternating traffic to two lanes at noon on Friday.

The highway was opened to one lane last week, three weeks after 3,000 cubic metres of rock crashed onto the highway on Monday, Aug. 28.

Sirett said the focus now is on the long-term stabilization of the area.

Click to play video: 'Okanagan locals find creative ways around Highway 97 rockslide'
Okanagan locals find creative ways around Highway 97 rockslide

“Crews have been working on that, getting access up to the top of the slide,” said Sirett. “Up there, we’re going to do a little bit more engineering work, and then we’ll begin drilling and blasting soon to start bringing the slide down.”

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The blasting, he said, will allow the highway to eventually reopen to four lanes.

Sirett said how much blasting and rock removal will occur is yet to be determined.

An aerial view of the rockslide that crashed down onto Highway 97 near Summerland on Aug. 28, 2023. Global News

“Once we get into the drilling and blasting, and get some work behind us and how productive we can be, that might start to give us a sense,” said Sirett.

“But we’re still a ways away from that to fully understand when we might fully reopen.”

Sirett also mentioned that the area is still considered an active slide, “so with any adverse weather or change in condition, we are still set up to close with limited notice.”

He said motorists should visit DriveBC for the latest information and to obey traffic and speed signs in the area.

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Click to play video: 'Drone view of rockslide on Highway 97 near Summerland, B.C.'
Drone view of rockslide on Highway 97 near Summerland, B.C.

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