Precarious conditions on Highway 4 detour spark multiple accidents and growing frustration

Precarious conditions on Highway 4 detour spark multiple accidents and growing frustration

With the closure of Highway 4, traffic is being rerouted through a detour south of Port Alberni through to Lake Cowichan — but concerns are mounting over its safety and accessibility.

READ MORE: Detour in effect as wildfire grows, closes Highway 4 east of Port Alberni

The Ministry of Transportation is advising the public to restrict travel to only that which is essential.

The once hour-long commute between Port Alberni and Nanaimo has transformed into a gruelling four-hour ordeal due to the closure of Highway 4.

Travellers, especially those heading to and from Tofino, are experiencing the worst effects of this detour.

“The gravel detour route has narrow sections, sharp curves, single-lane bridges and challenging terrain,” reads the traffic advisory from the MOT. “There is no cell service, gas stations or washroom facilities on the detour route.”

This combination of factors has created an increasingly precarious situation that is only getting worse.

Already there have been multiple accidents along the route.

Just outside of Lake Cowichan, a sedan sits in the ditch off of Parkinson Road. It’s one of two overturned vehicles along the way.

The other, a truck turned over on its side on the bank of a lake.

A third vehicle crashed into a rock wall.

Story continues below.

Commuters and local residents are growing frustrated with the long haul, and it has many calling for a better alternative.

One alternative continually being suggested is the Horne Lake Connector route, but it remains gated and closed to the public.

Mosaic’s private roads are restricted to emergency and authorized personnel only,” a spokesperson from Mosaic Forest Management told CHEK News.

While the company says it has the public’s safety as its highest priority, many are left wondering why more isn’t being done to reduce travel along the currently assigned detour.

And with the looming possibility of food and fuel shortages now taking hold over Port Alberni, some in the community are beyond frustrated.

“Absolutely disgusting that Mosaic is holding the entire west coast hostage considering that they have gated the shortest bypass route,” said Jamie Donovan, a resident of Port Alberni and a trucker with 27 years of experience in the area.

“There’s potentially two alternative routes that they have gated. Horne Lake and the Comox Link, which comes out on Comox Lake — it would be suitable for keeping the supply chain full and keeping trucks going in and out,” he adds.

On Wednesday night, Donovan said he first started to notice the supplies in town running thin.

“There’s three gas stations out of fuel. I know last night, I went to buy flip-flops for my daughters and I started noticing there was no produce and no meat left. I ended up going shopping for about a week of supplies, it’s like a repeat of Covid.”

With Highway 4 sustaining significant damage from recent rock falls and debris, those in the community are wondering when things will get back to normal.

There’s currently no word on when the fire will be contained, and even then no one knows what’s in store for the only road in and out to the west coast.

READ MORE: Cameron Bluffs wildfire grows to 140 hectares as residents prepare to leave

Highway 4

A water truck sprays down Highway 4 to keep the dust down and keep adequate visibility for drivers along the emergency detour. | Courtesy of B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

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