Highway 4, the main east-west vehicle route across Vancouver Island, will remain closed Thursday night after rockfall from a scheduled blast damaged the road.
— Port Alberni Fire (@portalbernifire) January 23, 2020
UPDATE – #BCHwy4 is closed in both directions due to a rockfall compromising the road. The highway will remain closed throughout the night. Assessment in progress. No estimated time of opening.
Next update 6:00 AM.
— Drive BC (@DriveBC) January 24, 2020
According to the ministry, a scheduled blast overnight Wednesday at the Highway 4/Kennedy Hill Safety Improvements project, rockfall from the blast led to a damaged road.
The ministry said the blast was done in a controlled manner with Traffic Control personnel in place, and the road was closed to traffic at the time.
“The contractor was following an approved plan for the blast but larger than anticipated rockfall resulted in a portion of the road being impacted making it unsafe for the ministry to open the highway at this time.” said the Ministry of Transportation in a release.
Currently, Highway 4 remains closed and there is no estimated time for reopening. Traffic control personnel are turning drivers around at the Tofino/Ucluelet junction and Sproat Lake.
The ministry said a geotechnical assessment is complete and repairs are now underway. Crews will be excavating the damaged road and replacing the driveable surface.
Rock embankment fill is actively being hauled and placed to build the damaged road area back up to highway grade, the ministry said.
Local governments and First Nations have been updated. The ministry also said first responders have been contacted and have been notified that emergency vehicles can be accommodated through the site if necessary.
Tofino’s mayor drove through the construction site last night before the slide occurred.
“It creates an inconvenience as well so we’re trying to balance the short term pain for the long term gain and we know how great the project is going to be when it’s finally over,” said Josie Osbourne.
Ucluelet’s mayor says the closure is a major disruption.
“If someone keels over with a heart attack right now are we able to get out? I couldn’t answer that question with any amount of confidence because the fog is down at the trees,” said Mayco Noel.
Noel says this highlights the need for cell service on the highway.
“I continue to try to push the conversation of Wi-Fi. Perhaps if Wi-Fi communication was available, we could’ve relayed more information out to the rest of the travelling motorists trying to go there and just to spread the word.”
A couple of British tourists are among those trying to Ucluelet tonight where they have hotel reservations.
“There isn’t a plan. The next plan is to ask you what the plan is. To ask whether we can sleep in your car or not,” joked Gary Simons.
The blasting portion of the project should be finished by the end of this spring.
This is the fourth time rock blasting has closed the highway for a significant part of a day beyond what was planned.