Drivers received their first taste of Highway 4’s anticipated closures last week.
The provincial and federal governments are splitting a $38 million project to upgrade a particularly curvy 1.6-kilometre stretch of the highway at Kennedy Hill by straightening it out, removing a protruding rock wall and creating a new rest-stop and viewpoint at Kennedy Lake.
The project will force the only road connecting the West Coast to the rest of Vancouver Island to shut down during scheduled daily and nightly closures and is expected to take roughly two years to complete.
The highway was closed in both directions between 5-7 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m. from May 28 to June 1 and drivers were lining up at the west side of the highway closure, roughly 14 kilometres from the Tofino-Ucluelet- junction, as the noon-1 p.m. closure took effect last Wednesday afternoon.
“We were supposed to catch a 3:30 ferry and we didn’t expect the closure to happen, so we might miss the ferry and we’re going to have to probably take the next one, which is kind of going to ruin our day,” said Lanre Olabisi, a New York resident who was visiting Tofino. “I don’t think it would affect whether or not we would travel back to Tofino, but it is an inconvenience…We were not expecting this at all. I wish there had been warnings so that we could have made the proper arrangements.”
Ontario residents Chris and Nicola Thomson said they knew about the noon closure, but had hoped to make it through before it began.
“We’re stuck waiting for the pass to be back open. However, we did know about it since there were lots of signs coming both in and out of the area and, I believe, our hotel actually emailed us a few weeks ago to let us know that there would be closures affecting the area,” Nicola said. “We pushed our luck trying to get through before the closure…We just missed out on the closure time.”
Chris added the closures won’t affect the family returning to the West Coast and suggested the road needed an upgrade.
“It’s a beautiful ride as it is, so it will be nice to have the road in decent shape for this beautiful scenery,” he said.
Closures were expected to hit the highway again this week, but the work schedule was modified on Friday to show no closures are expected until June 11, though drivers are advised to expect 30 minute delays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The highway is scheduled to be closed from 5-7 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m. from June 11-15 and the closure schedule is expected to expand from June 18-22 with traffic stoppages expected from 1-4 a.m., 5-7 a.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight.
The province had initially scheduled the 10 p.m. closure for 9 p.m., but concerns from West Coast residents convinced the ministry to give locals and visitors an extra hour to get through. There will also be no 10 p.m. to midnight closure on Fridays.
Ucluelet local Rich Parlee said he’s more concerned about the project’s price-tag than the closures.
“I’m retired, so I can work around the inconveniences. It may affect my health because I’m so annoyed that they would spend $38 million on 1.6 kilometres while the rest of the road is very rough,” he said. “I feel that it was ill-advised. Perhaps it’s a political present to somebody, but not to me. So, I will be mildly affected by the closures and greatly affected by the tax bill. First, it started below $30 million, then it went to $30 million now it’s $38.1 million and everybody knows the clock is running…I’ll get through it, but I don’t like it.”
A website has been launched to provide updates on the highway’s closure schedule and daily traffic advisories can be heard by calling 1-855-451-7152.