West Coast municipal leaders call for improved phone service on Highway 4


WATCH: After a serious crash on Highway 4 this week, which took half an hour to report because of a lack of cell reception, politicians on Vancouver Island are demanding change. The mayors want to see better cell phone coverage or even phones placed along the side of the highway to improve public safety. Kendall Hanson reports.

One of the worst places to have a roadside emergency is the more than hour-long stretch between Port Alberni and Vancouver Island’s west coast.

There have been a number of crashes along this stretch of Highway 4 but without cell service, there is often no way to call for help.

“I think with technology as it is today it’s not necessary to have all of the dead zones that we have in communications,” said Sharie Minions, Port Alberni’s mayor-elect.

“So whether that’s improved cell phone access cell phone reception, emergency phones, whatever that ends up looking like, I think there’s got to be a solution to this problem.”

The safety issue hit close to home for Minions this week.

Her mother was involved in a crash on the highway after a car veered across the center line near Sutton Pass and struck the truck she was in.

A passing motorist had to drive 30 minutes to get cell phone coverage to raise the alarm.

“They were very lucky that everybody in the car accident ended up being fine but I think it really just showed the need. if somebody wasn’t fine in that situation having it take an hour or so for emergency services to get there is really quite scary,” said Minions.

Minions is not alone. Tofino’s mayor and Ucluelet’s mayor-elect are also on board.

Ucluelet’s mayor-elect says the lack of cell coverage not only means not being able to call for help, but it also leads to having to respond to many false alarms.

“We have a very large area that we’re responsible for and it’s a volunteer-based fire department with limited resources, including our ambulance and police services,” said Mayco Noel. “So it becomes a burden when we respond to not just emergencies but as well to false alarms.”

There are growing calls for the province to finally step in and solve the problem.

“I think they should’ve done it a long time ago,” said Carol Dupuis, a Port Alberni resident.

“All you have to do is save one life and it’s paid for,” said Bernie Dupuis, Carol’s husband.

“There needs to be a lot more safety put in out here. The amount of tourists are just increasing [and] the government is benefitting and is taking it all,” said Len Robertson, a Port Alberni resident.

The Transportation Ministry says it partnered with Telus and ICBC last year to install Wi-Fi at the Taylor Arm rest stop but admits it’s not enough.

In a statement, it says “…this is only a partial solution. Minister Claire Trevena has asked staff to look into the matter and work toward a more comprehensive solution to address these important safety concerns.”

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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