It is a sigh of relief for drivers who use B.C.'s Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton.

After closing nearly three weeks ago, the highway reopened Wednesday morning at 5 a.m.

The highway north of Summerland was shut down after construction crews discovered a huge crack on a bluff above the road back on Oct. 24.

Highways crews have removed nearly 15,000 cubic metres of rock off the creeping rock bluff since blasting began nearly two weeks ago. Many tonnes of the dislodged rock has been piled at the bottom of the slope to act as a doorstop for falling debris.

At its worst, the rock was creeping towards Okanagan Lake at more than 20 millimetres a day.

Drivers were forced to use lengthy detours, often down deserted logging roads, during the closure. The province also provided a free water taxi service to shuttle drivers.

Traffic can use both lanes of Highway 97 until 7 p.m. when regular half-hour closures will continue through the night to allow crews to return to the original road widening project.

The Okanagan slide was the second major highway closure in B.C. in the last three months. A rock slide blocked the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the main artery between Whistler and Vancouver, for four days in late July.

Additional Information

Detailed schedules and maps are available online at Drive BC by following the link to the Highway 97 Closure Information page. There is also a 24 hour information line, at 250-712-3678.