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Safety improvements coming to Highway 97 between Coldstream and Lake Country

Motorist safety will be improved on a deadly stretch of North Okanagan highway.

It was announced Wednesday that concrete barriers will be installed along 11 kilometres of Highway 97 between Coldstream and Lake Country to ensure motorists do not cross the centre line.

"I have known people who have unfortunately lost their lives," said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA.

The most recent accident claimed the life of an Oyama man June 4.

Barriers are currently along a portion of the highway but the announcement means the remaining sections will also be barricaded through the $5 million project, which will begin this fall.

"We're constantly working to improve highway safety," said Transportation Minister Todd Stone, adding that there is a need to take action as about 20,000 vehicles a day use the highway.

Highway 97 is the Okanagan's main trade and tourism corridor.

"This (project) builds on the $77.9 million investment to widen Highway 97 to four lanes between Winfield and Oyama, completed last year," said Norm Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA.

Also on Wednesday, Stone announced that the speed limit on Highway 97, from Gatzke Road in Oyama to College Way in Coldstream, will be increased from 90 to 100 kilometres. However, that won't occur until the concrete barriers are in place.

One safety improvement that is not moving ahead yet is realignment of the Birnie Road intersection.

"I'm familiar with Birnie Road and the concerns expressed," said Stone of demands from the Regional District of North Okanagan that something be done to ensure the safety of people leaving the Greater Vernon landfill and entering on to the highway from Birnie Road.

However, Stone says his ministry must balance investment in highway infrastructure with taxpayers' ability to pay for such work.

When asked where Birnie Road was in terms of priorities, Stone said, "We'll talk that through with the regional district."

The Ministry of Transportation wants to make it right-in only for motorists leaving the highway to get on to Birnie Road and right-out only for motorists entering back on to the highway.

RDNO wants a bridge constructed over the highway so traffic leaving Birnie Road can get back on to the highway northbound safely.

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