Local concerns convince province to push back nightly closures of highway in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet.

“We were trying to understand how we could be least disruptive to people who use Highway 4.”

The West Coast is cheering some welcomed news from the province regarding the upcoming nightly closures of the only highway to and from the rest of Vancouver Island.

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is about to get going on a $38 million project to straighten out a roughly 1.5 kilometre stretch of Highway 4 near Kennedy Lake as well as blasting an overhanging rock-wall it sees as a current hazard to motorists.

The work is expected to take two years to complete.

The project was announced in March, 2017 and, in December, locals learned that the project would force the highway to close every night and the work schedule initially proposed by the ministry had the first nightly closure occurring at 9 p.m. from March 1 to June 15 and September 15 to March 1 and 10 p.m. from June 15-September 15.

After hearing feedback from locals, the ministry has rejigged that schedule. The road will now be closed from 10 p.m. to midnight, 1-4 a.m. and 5-7 a.m. everyday throughout the year except for Fridays where the highway will remain open until 1 a.m. Saturday morning, closing in both directions from 1-4 a.m. and 5-7 a.m.

The full revised schedule can be found here.

The ministry’s deputy regional director Janelle Erwin told the Westerly News the schedule change came from feedback received at open house events in both Tofino and Ucluelet in January.

“We really heard an abundant amount of feedback around how much it would benefit residents and commuters and businesses folks to change the timeline to 10 p.m. across the board,” she said.

“A big part of that was also for consistency…We heard from both communities that having a consistent time frame was really going to be helpful, be it a tourist or just the average commuter who’s trying to understand when they will and won’t be stopped by closures.”

She said it was important for the ministry to listen to the communities’ concerns and adjust its plan accordingly.

“That’s why we were out there. We were trying to understand how we could be least disruptive to people who use Highway 4,” she said. “We know that the project will cause some disruption. We tried to develop a schedule that still permitted the movement of goods and people during the peak periods.”

She added the highway will also open at 7 a.m. each morning, rather than the 8 a.m. openings initially considered.

Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques had pushed hard for the change from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and was delighted to see the ministry hear the West Coast’s concerns.

“I think it’s great. I think they got some good input from us and all the communities on the West Coast and we are very appreciative that they’ve adjusted their schedule accordingly,” she said. “It’s terrific news for us. It will make the flow of people coming and going a lot easier.”

Construction was expected to begin March 1, but Erwin said the ministry now hopes to see work get underway in April.

“Hopefully we’ll see folks out there next month and really getting into the swing of the project,” she said.

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