The highway widening project requires extensive excavation work on the rock ciff next to Highway 4. (Eric Plummer photo)
The Highway 4 Kennedy Hill safety improvement project is progressing on schedule and is still slated to be complete in summer 2020, according to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI).
The project, taking place 14 kilometres northeast of the Tofino-Ucluelet Junction, includes improvements to the road, such as widening the highway to accommodate two 3.6-metre lanes, 1.5-metre paved shoulders and a concrete roadside barrier between the lake and the highway. In addition, the road will be straightened from of its curvilinear alignment and overhanging rock will be eliminated through extensive blasting and excavation.
A new rest area with washroom facilities and a viewpoint will also utilize a portion of the old highway, including a new intersection accessible by car, RV, bus and commercial vehicles.
The $38.1 million project has been jointly funded by the Province of B.C. ($24,600,000) and the Government of Canada ($13,500,000). A $29 million contract was awarded to Emil Anderson Construction (EAC) Ltd. of Kelowna.
“The project has been progressing really well with the contractor out there. The contractor has been doing a really good job being consistent on the closure intervals and keeping notifications to the public up to date,” said Janelle Staite, regional deputy director with MoTI. “Generally speaking the work that’s happening out there, we’re pretty happy with how it’s advancing and how the contractor’s performing.”
Staite said in order to accommodate some of the excavation on the rock bluffs, a few large cedar trees had to be removed.
“We’ve actually secured those larger growth trees for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation for cultural and community use,” she said.
Eliminating existing overhanging rock above the road surface—a hazard to larger transport vehicles—will allow the drivers to no longer need to cross the centre line.
In terms of tourism, Staite said the road improvements will allow for safer cycle tourism in the area and provide an added opportunity for people to stop at a viewpoint with the new rest stop.
“It’s a rest area and a view point so you’ll be able to look out and have a nice view of Kennedy Lake and there will be a little picnic area, washroom amenities for folks to be able to stop and stay a while and enjoy the view,” Staite said.
Drivers heading to or from the west coast can still expect intermittent road closures in the 1.6-kilometre Kennedy Hill zone. The latest traffic updates from EAC show from April 9 to 17, the road will be closed between 1 - 4 a.m., 5 - 7 a.m., 12 - 1 p.m., 4 - 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. (except on Fridays). Drivers can expect up to 30-minute delays at all other times, day and night. On Tuesday, April 9, there will be no 1 - 4 a.m. or 5 - 7 a.m. closure. From April 18 to 23, no road closures are scheduled but single lane traffic will ensue.
Traffic stoppages through the peak season (June 15 to Sept. 15) can generally be expected between 10 p.m. and midnight, 1 a.m. through 4 a.m., then from 5 a.m. through 7 a.m.
The traffic advisory hotline can be reached at 1-855-451-7152, and will be updated daily. Updates will also be posted on electronic message boards located along the route, and additional information is available on the DriveBC.ca website.
Nancy Cameron, executive director with Tofino Tourism, said in 2018 the region’s business communities and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve were very proactive in informing their guests and potential guests about the construction road closure times and delays.
“This communication worked because after the construction began there was no impact to business levels in 2018, with hotel/resort occupancy remaining steady,” Cameron said. “This communication will continue in 2019 and so we do not anticipate a negative impact.”