Port Alberni’s Cathy Ollech rushed to get into a long line of traffic on Highway 4 Thursday morning. Then she set up a lawn chair, to wait an hour and half in a kilometres-long backlog of cars.
She said if she didn’t get through on that first opening of the day, the highway would shut down for repair work at Cameron Lake until 5 p.m., and it would be night before she could get home.
“It’s just hard,” said Ollech.
“It extends our day from what’s an eight, nine hour day to 12 to 14 hours,” she said.
Ollech was one of thousands trying to get through the Cameron Lake stretch of Highway 4 Thursday, ahead of the bulk of holiday traffic that’s expected to set out for the west coast this long weekend, and face long delays due to the stabilizing of this rock bluff that was damaged by the Cameron Bluffs wildfire.
“That’s why we’re at the first opening because we don’t know what to expect,” said Ollech. “It’s a long weekend and it could be hours.”
Nancy Smeltzer from Nanaimo spent the wait picking up roadside litter.
“There’s a fair amount here so I’m just picking it up while I’m waiting, I’m bored,” said Smeltzer.
So to allow for increased long weekend traffic, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure planned to open Highway 4 to single lane alternating traffic from 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, to 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8. It’s a move intended to reduce long line ups.
“Coming from Nanaimo, it’s crazy, and then we hit this,” said Jenna Payne, who was headed to Sproat Lake for the weekend. “So it went from being an hour and a half trip to a good three hours to go up.”
Payne said Thursday’s wait had her worried about what’s ahead in the upcoming rainy season.
“I’m definitely nervous to see what will happen, especially when it starts raining and the weather affects it because I think there’s predicted to be a bit of rock slides and all those roots from all of the trees are going to come up,” said Payne.
According to officials, that is why rock scaling work needs to be done now to ensure that the Highway 4 corridor can be safely counted on this winter. Highway 4 is expected to re-open to both lanes of traffic by the mid-August.