Rock blasting has resumed on Highway 4 and Tofino’s business community is not impressed with the closures that have come along with it.
The blasting is being done as part of the $38 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project being paid for by the provincial and federal governments.
The project, which is focused on a 1.5 kilometre stretch of the only road in and out of the Tofino-Ucluelet region, began in 2018 and was initially scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2020, but various rock blasting incidents combined with the COVID-19 pandemic pushed that completion into next year.
Rock blasting was put on hold in the spring and resumed on Sept. 30 with a new closure schedule in place that includes closures from 5-7 a.m., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.
Here's a copy of the revised closure schedule for October 5 to November 1, 2020.
The time slots marked by C indicate…
The midday closure has irked Tofino businesses and the Tofino Long Beach chamber of commerce and Tourism Tofino have sent a joint-letter to the Ministry of Transportation asking that the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. be moved to later in the day or, ideally, overnight.
“Most local accommodation providers have guest check-out times of 10am and 11am. The current closure means these travellers either have to leave by 8am or wait until 1pm. Deliveries bound for the west coast are also affected, and drivers unable to make it to the west coast before 9am will endure extremely long days. We have spoken to one delivery company, for example, that must hire extra staff to bypass the current closure timing. These added expenses are especially difficult for businesses in this current uncertain climate,” the letter reads, in part. “Barring moving the work outside of daylight and peak travel hours, we respectfully ask that the closure time be shifted to 11am-3pm in order to take into account the needs of residents and travellers to the area.”
The chamber’s executive director Jen Dart told the Westerly News via email that the letter was prompted by concerns being raised by local businesses.
“We did a quick poll of our members and found that overwhelmingly the timing of the closure is causing problems for most businesses and we also heard that it’s affecting residents,” Dart wrote. “We have heard that transportation companies are seriously affected, because the closure timing means their drivers could be on shift too long. It’s been a challenge for them to manage their supply runs, which in turn affects us all. Also, as mentioned, most accommodations are having issues because the closure timing is in direct conflict with their check-out times.”
Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel has been critical of what he believes has been a lack of communication from the ministry to the region the closures are affecting and Dart suggested the ministry had also not discussed the closure schedule with the chamber prior to announcing the closures, adding that she hopes more communication will be done in the future.
“We can only hope the ministry will take this collective voice into consideration and shift the timing of the closure. We feel that the region’s voice is more powerful when it is combined and very much appreciate everyone who responded to our call for input. We have also requested that the West Coast be consulted on future decisions regarding the project,” she wrote.