Premier John Horgan has promised action on the road between Bamfield and Port Alberni, after a bus rollover earlier this month resulted in the deaths of two first-year university students.
It’s unfortunate that it took this tragedy to bring attention to the road.
Bamfield residents and visitors have been petitioning the provincial government for decades to improve the condition of the road. Bamfield Main is a gravel logging road owned and maintained by logging companies. But it’s not only used by loggers—the road is travelled every year by thousands, including residents of Bamfield, members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, tourists and students and researchers travelling to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre.
In the wake of the accident, some have questioned why a bus driver was travelling on a remote logging road so late in the evening. Others have pointed out that the road is hazardous no matter the time of day.
Bamfield Main is a road that has outgrown its original intent and has become a road connecting communities. It’s not reasonable to ask private companies to maintain it for regular commuters. This should be a responsibility taken on by the provincial government.
Bamfield is not the only community in the province serviced by a logging road. Zeballos and Tahsis, on the north end of the Island, are similarly isolated—not to mention a number of First Nations communities in B.C.’s Interior. A report released by B.C.’s forest safety watchdog in 2008 said that these roads have become an extension of the public highway system, and should be treated as such.
But 11 years after this report was released, Bamfield’s only road in and out of the community is still hazardous for experienced and inexperienced drivers alike.
The situation brings another piece of dangerous road to mind. The provincially-owned Cathedral Grove has been described as “an accident waiting to happen” by Port Alberni residents, local governments and tourists. The park draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, choking the highway with cars parked on the shoulders and pedestrians making unexpected dashes across the road.
Numerous studies and surveys have taken place over the past few years, but there has been no action yet.
We can only hope it won’t take another tragedy before we see a change.