Western Vancouver Island communities call for Sutton Pass webcam after snowstorm

Western Vancouver Island communities call for Sutton Pass webcam after snowstorm

When Rachel Soer and her husband left Tofino for Nanaimo Tuesday, they had no idea their commute would be so long.

“Almost nine hours. We left Tofino at noon and we got home last night just before 9 p.m.,” said Soer.

What they saw was a mess on Highway 4 that continued on the Inland Island Highway down to Nanaimo.

“We encountered a lot on the road between Tofino and Port Alberni. There were probably a dozen cars off the road,” she said.

She’s among those who believe a Drive BC camera on Sutton Pass should be re-installed so drivers have a better idea if they should travel.

“We’ve been trying to get that camera fixed up there for years,” said Soer, who added that many post highway updates to social media to fill the void. She believes a camera would’ve made a difference Tuesday.

“Yes, for sure. A lot of people would’ve known not to travel the road.”

Ucluelet’s mayor is another who would like B.C.’s Transportation Ministry to install a camera at Sutton Pass. Her husband was on the highway and saw many stuck and abandoned cars and trucks.

“It’s a huge problem. There are other webcams that you can look at but Sutton Pass, that’s the bad section,” said Marilyn McEwen.

The head of West Coast Connect, a courier company, says Mainroad Contracting should have more resources clearing the roads.

“It would be handier if in the budget we had the ability to get a few more trucks or just have something on the west coast to clear the roads,” said owner Ryan Whackett.

The transportation ministry says it will look again at putting a web camera at Sutton Pass, citing power as a challenge for its operation. As for the contractor all its west coast equipment was in use Tuesday.

“Every storm event we work with the contractor and our own staff to understand what worked well in the event and to see if there are any opportunities for improvements in future storm events. Our staff is currently having that conversation with the contractor,” said Janelle Staite, the ministry’s deputy director with the south coast region.

Soer doesn’t blame the contractor for Tuesday’s mess on Highway 4.

“There were semi-tractors that were blocking the roads so the plows couldn’t get through. We went through a large stretch of traffic where there were plows in the lineup of traffic and they just could access the areas they needed access to,” said Soer.

Soer says unprepared vehicles for the snow conditions were more of the problem than the plows that were also stuck in lineups as they tried to clear the highway.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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