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New rest area between Merritt and Kelowna to be built

The province is building a rest stop between Merritt and Kelowna because
The province is building a rest stop between Merritt and Kelowna because 'truck drivers and the general public who are on the road for long hours, as they need a safe, clean place to stop and have a rest.'
— image credit: contributed

A new, modern rest area will be built between Merritt and Kelowna on the Okanagan Connector, providing a safe, and convenient place for the commercial trucking industry and tourists to stop and rest along this stretch of highway,  Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone announced Monday.

“We recognize that rest areas are extremely important for truck drivers and the general public who are on the road for long hours, as they need a safe, clean place to stop and have a rest,” said Stone, in a press release from the provincial government.

“That’s why today we’re committing an additional $9 million in funding to upgrade existing rest areas around the province, and ensure that new rest areas, such as this one that will be constructed at the Loon Lake Interchange on Highway 97C, will be built to a modern standard with running water, flush toilets and ample room for commercial trucks to park.”

Access improvements will be made to the existing Loon Lake interchange on Highway 97C including the construction of a new access road to the rest area. The rest area will offer separate parking areas for passenger vehicles and large commercial traffic. The Loon Lake Rest Area has also been designed to support the potential future development of services and upgrades such as car charging stations and WiFi.

This project is part of the new Provincial Trucking Strategy in B.C. on the Move, the province’s 10-year transportation plan. The ministry is investing $9-million into upgrading the province’s rest areas over three years, by constructing new rest areas such as this one, adding additional lighting, upgrading buildings, improving accessibility and increasing capacity for commercial truck parking at existing facilities.

“BCTA has advocated for more and better rest areas for commercial vehicle drivers since 2011,” said B.C. Trucking Association president and CEO Louise Yako. “When the highway is your workplace, you should be able to rely on safe, clean, well-lit rest areas at strategic locations with room to park. We’re pleased the Province heard our concerns, acknowledged the need to improve the number and quality of amenities available, and consulted directly with drivers. We look forward to seeing upgrades and the new rest area on Highway 97C.”

This announcement comes following a Highway Rest Area Survey, conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure by Davies Transportation Consulting Inc. in January 2016. The survey generated a strong interest among commercial truck drivers, with 835 respondents.

Key findings of the survey included:

  • Truck drivers want more rest areas;
  • Truck drivers want better rest areas (with calls for more truck parking, upgraded washroom facilities, and increased lighting);
  • Truck drivers support the addition of commercial services at rest areas, including convenience stores, fast food, fuel, and shower facilities.

In response to these survey results, the ministry is investing $9 million in:

  • A new Class A rest area at the Loon Lake Interchange on Highway 97C (Okanagan Connector) between Merritt and Kelowna. Construction is anticipated to commence in Spring 2017 and is scheduled for completion in late fall.
  • Upgrades to existing rest areas (including upgrades to washroom facilities, lighting improvements, more picnic tables, and improving accessibility)

In addition, the ministry will be issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to BC Bid to explore private sector interest in supplying commercial services at rest areas, such as service stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and other amenities. The information gathered will help the ministry determine if there is interest from the private sector and identify potential locations and services. From there, the ministry will undertake location specific stakeholder engagement and consultation prior to moving forward with a formal Request for Proposal (RFP).

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