A rock blasting accident caused a rockslide that shut down the only highway in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet for three days in January, 2019. (MoT/Twitter)

Ucluelet mayor criticizes province’s lack of communication as highway closures resume

Daily closures return to only highway in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet starting Sept. 30

Construction on Hwy. 4, along with the closures that come with it, will resume on Sept. 30 after too-frequent rock blasting accidents forced the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to put its Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project on hiatus as it spent the summer sorting out a new strategy.

The $38 million project, being paid for by both the provincial and federal governments, aims to widen a 1.5 kilometre stretch of the highway that connects the Tofino-Ucluelet region to the rest of Vancouver Island.

The project kicked off in 2018 and was expected to be completed by the summer of 2020, but scheduled explosions being conducted to remove an encroaching rock-face often brought down more rock than expected, putting travelling motorists at risk and damaging the existing roadway, leading to the pause.

READ MORE: Rock blasting along Tofino-Ucluelet highway put on hiatus

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Sept. 21 that it’s ready to start blasting again, though things will look different this time around, with multiple daily closures expected to be replaced with a new schedule that will see the highway closed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday, starting Sept. 30.

“Smaller and more precise daytime blasts, with sufficient time to clear debris, will help boost safety for people and will limit unplanned highway closures like those experienced by drivers in the early spring of 2020,” the announcement reads. “The new plan has been made following extensive onsite geotechnical investigations, which have determined that the safest time to blast is during daylight hours. This will allow for safe and efficient removal of loose rock after each blast.”

A closure schedule published by the ministry on Sept. 22, however, lays out daily closures from 5-7 a.m., noon-1 p.m., and 4-5 p.m from now until Oct. 5. Drivers should also expect delays outside of those closures as the current roadway can only accommodate single-lane-alternating traffic.

Here's a copy of the revised closure schedule to October 4, 2020.

The time slots marked by C indicate that the highway…

Posted by EAC Hwy 4 Kennedy Hill Project Updates on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The project is now expected to run into the spring of 2021.

“Next spring, after the bulk of the challenging blasting is complete, conditions will be re-evaluated to determine if night-time blasting can safely resume,” the announcement reads.

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel suggested that the closures recommencement would likely bring “some grimacing and maybe a couple of eye rolls” from residents who have enjoyed the refreshing break from construction on the only road in and out of town.

READ MORE: Tofino-Ucluelet highway reopens after bridge installed earlier than expected

He added that the announcement comes at a crucial time when the community’s tourism economy is trying to recoup some of the vital commerce lost during the spring and early summer’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“We need to minimize the negative impact on the travelling motorists. People have other options to spend their dollars and I don’t think that’s put into the equation,” he said, adding the closures likely cause some potential day-trippers to look elsewhere for leisure opportunities. “Even if that shrinks our tourism by 10 per cent, that’s 10 per cent that we don’t have…I can’t stress this enough, I want to see this [project] go, but not at the expense of the little bit of the economy and dollars that are coming to the West Coast right now.”

He added that he had hoped the ministry would spend some time during the construction pause to create a more effective communication strategy with the West Coast’s municipal governments, but that didn’t happen and, in fact, Ucluelet did not know that construction was about to reconvene until the ministry’s announcement.

“To my knowledge, to date, the ministry has not reached out to ask us or the West Coast whether 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. [closures] works. There’s been no direct asks to the district or the West Coast about, ‘What can we do over the next year-and- a-half to make sure that the travelling motorists are not negatively impacted,” he said. “It looks like there was nothing that was learnt from the communication aspect to date, which is disappointing…I’m not surprised. This is the status quo. They don’t have to consult with us if they don’t want to and this is it; this is what you end up with. I’m thankful that the project is going ahead, it’s just sometimes it’s in the details and sometimes the details are questionable.”

READ MORE: Province says Wi-Fi “not feasible” for commuters stuck in Hwy. 4 construction closures

He added that, while he remains supportive and grateful of the project, concerns he’s consistently raised around the ministry’s lack of communication along with his requests that wireless internet be installed at the construction zone so that commuters stuck in a closure can get a hold of those who might be waiting for them, have gone unanswered.

“Things that matter to us on the West Coast, no one really cares about right now. All they’re thinking about is election,” he said. “Everyone is coming up with their own opinion because it’s all about previous history. I don’t think it really matters what it looks like on paper, it’s about the action and the end result. So, let’s be optimistic and hope that [the ministry] and the contractor will be able to minimize impact to travelling motorists and we can move on…There’s nothing that’s going to be quick about what they need to finish off.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Leila Bui with her parents Tuan (left) and Kairry Nguyen. The family says they are relieved the trial process has come to close Monday morning with Tenessa Nikirk found guilty of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sentencing begins for distracted driver in collision that left 11-year-old Island girl in coma

Leila Bui has been in a non-responsive state since she was hit at a Saanich crosswalk in 2017

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor has expressed concerns about the excessive freighters parked in the Salish Sea for quite some time. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Victoria police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

Premier-elect John Horgan, during a visit in Sidney, broadly promised improvements to transit among other issues in the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, even after voters re-elected BC Green Adam Olsen as Member of the Legislative Assembly. (Black Press Media file photo)
Premier-elect John Horgan promises to work with all MLAs and for all ridings

‘There are a whole bunch of views in the community and they need to be heard and I intend to listen.’

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Can you spot all 12 Days of Christmas displays at the Butchart Gardens? Jen Blyth photo.
The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens

Some events cancelled due to COVID-10 but 12 Days of Christmas will brighten the season

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Victoria police are looking for high-risk offender Douglas McPherson. (Courtesy of VicPD)
High-risk parolee with history of bank robbery believed to be in Victoria

Police ask for public’s help locating 64-year-old parolee

A modular unit is lifted into place on the supportive housing complex at 580 Dogwood Street on Oct. 22. Photo by Cleo Corbett/City of Campbell River
Campbell River’s newest supportive housing facility rises on Dogwood Street

Pre-fab modular construction means the building can go on the foundation in under five days

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who rammed a police car to escape an arrest attempt. (File photo)
Drug trafficking suspect rams police vehicle in Nanaimo and escapes arrest

Suspect still at large after fleeing from police in Harewood on Friday afternoon

Const. Graham Walker of the Saanich Traffic Safety Unit recreates an incident involving a driver who police say attempted to film the scene of a crash while driving up Highway 17. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Police track down driver caught filming accident scene on Pat Bay Highway

Driver issued $368 ticket, points on their licence

Most Read