Rock blasting work on Hwy. 4 has been put on hiatus.
“The ministry and contractor are currently reviewing how best to complete the rock excavation while minimizing the inconvenience to people who rely on the highway,” a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson told the Westerly News via email. “The remaining bluffs represent some of the most challenging rock in the entire project to manage. While this evaluation is underway, blasting operations have temporarily been put on hold.”
The blasting is part of the provincial and federal government’s joint $38 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project, which kicked off in 2018 with the intent of widening a roughly 1.5 kilometre stretch of the highway and removing an encroaching rockface. As of November, 400 blasts had been conducted and just under 90,000 cubic metres of material had been removed.
The oft-maligned blasting work has been blamed for frequent unscheduled closures over the past year as unpredictable rockfalls have shut down the only road connecting the Tofino-Ucluelet region to the rest of Vancouver Island, causing frustration amongst commuters and business owners.
A significant blasting mishap in January destroyed a portion of the road, leading to a three-day closure and the installation of a temporary bridge.
The ministry spokesperson added that “Emil Anderson Construction remains the prime contractor onsite” and drivers should still expect delays as work continues despite the blasting being paused.
“Work continues on the project, including construction of a concrete retaining structure, rock bolting and meshing operations around the site, and placement of final road base gravel at the north end of the project,” they wrote.
The project was initially scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2020, but the ministry announced in April that its timeline had been pushed back.