Construction closures on Highway 4’s Kennedy Hill set until late spring

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Construction closures at the Kennedy Hill project on Highway 4 are going to be continuing for months yet.

The project was initially supposed to be done by now but cost overruns, construction challenges and delays mean it won’t be complete until next fall.

The project was initially supposed to be done by now but the government has just set out a new schedule for highway closures through the winter and spring.

“[It’s] not surprising, not surprising but disappointing,” said Ryan Wackett, the owner of Westcoast Connect.

Westcoast Connect is a delivery company that travels between Nanaimo, Ucluelet and Tofino each day.

They have to schedule their trips around the six hours the highway is closed daily for blasting and construction.

“I’ve had my drivers’ for the last few years kind of dealing with it and with the promises, it’s going to end soon. Six months from now whatever and so they keep going,” said Wackett.

Initially budgeted at $38.1 million, the 1.5-kilometre Kennedy Hill project was initially supposed to be complete by late summer 2020.

It’s now expected to cost $53 million, an increase of $15 million.

“We were hit with a pandemic mid-project and that had some impacts on the project. We had some really tricky challenges with the blasting. The rock was more fractured than we anticipated it would be. It was coming down in different ways. We also had some environmental challenges. We’re right there adjacent to Kennedy Lake so we had to be mindful of that,” said Janelle Staite, from BC’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Numerous times the highway was closed for much longer than anticipated when blasting brought down more rock than intended and frustration from drivers led to changes.

“We decided to undertake much smaller blasts and those smaller blasts bring rock down in a more predictable way enabling us to clean them off the road and get the highway reopened for the travelling public so smaller blasts obviously take a little more time for sure,” said Staite.

Westcoast Connect’s owner says he does appreciate what has become a reliable closure schedule but he says he can’t wait for it to be done.

“It’s going to seem like a dream,” laughed Wackett.

The project is now slated to be complete by next fall.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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