Old Island Highway closure upsets business owners

Old Island Highway closure upsets business owners
WatchBusiness owners want compensation for lost revenue during the busy tourist season

Monday was the first day of a six-week closure of the Old Island Highway, also known as Highway 19a, just south of the Comox Valley.

B.C.’s Transportation Ministry has shut it to replace a damaged culvert, and the work is being done now to least disturb the fish habitat nearby.

At the Fanny Bay Inn, an 80-year-old establishment, the Monday lunch crowd was much sparser than normal.

“I see the impact already because usually at this time of day we’re running our butts off just to keep people content and there’s just no traffic,” said Roxanne O’Brien, Fanny Bay Inn’s Owner.

Business owners say they were caught off guard when the province gave them six days notice about the closure.

“I don’t believe that’s right,” said Gil Campbell, Owner of the Fanny Bay Trading Co. “Like wouldn’t you tell someone when you’re about to affect their life, their livelihood?”

Campbell says this is their busiest time of year. And closing just a single lane of traffic would’ve been better. The store relies on the summer season for the bulk of its revenue and more notice could have helped.

“We could’ve gotten our defences up and got something going to try and stop it,” said Campbell.

Usually, this section of the Old Island Highway averages between four and six thousand vehicles daily.

B.C.’s transportation ministry said closing a single lane isn’t possible considering what it needs to get done.

In a statement, the ministry said, “the contractor is excavating to a depth of nine to 11 metres. For the safety of workers and the public, it is not possible to keep a lane of traffic open during construction… or limit the closure to nighttime only.

The Area’s director with the Comox Valley Regional district says about 40 businesses will be affected.

“The work is needed. It’s hard to disagree with the ministry on that but the heads up on that was a little short,” said Daniel Arbour, the Area “A” Director.

“The reality of a major road closure for six weeks at this time of year is a tough one.”

Back at the Fanny Bay Inn, the owner says she has 16 employees that along with herself will suddenly be seeing a lot less income.

“Disheartening is what it is and I feel it for deeply for my staff and for my bank account. I am appalled that it has to be this way,” said O’Brien.

Business owners are meeting with transportation officials Tuesday. The owners would like some financial compensation for all the revenues they’re about to lose.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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