Rock debris holds up Highway 4 until mid afternoon

Eric Plummer, July 9, 2019

During a scheduled 1-4 a.m. road closure, a blast occurred at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday, closing off land access to Vancouver Island’s central west coast region for most of the day. (BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo)

Kennedy Lake, BC — 

Highway 4 continues to be closed in both directions after a cliff-side blast caused an unexpected volume of rock debris to fall on the road east of the Tofino-Ucluelet junction.

During a scheduled 1-4 a.m. road closure the blast occurred at approximately 3 a.m. Tuesday, closing off land access to Vancouver Island’s central west coast region for most of the day. The latest updates are available on DriveBC.ca, which reports that the highway is expected to reopen by 4 p.m.

While highway closures are scheduled throughout the day on either side of the 1.6-kilometre construction site over Kennedy Lake, most of the rock-side blasting occurs overnight.

“At about 3 a.m., blasting released several large blocks of rock that were not anticipated. The clean-up requires an extended closure of the highway,” stated B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in an email to Ha-Shilth-Sa. “While efforts are made to control the amount of rock released, this can sometimes be the result. The crew is working as quickly as possible to reopen the highway.”

The blasting is part of a $38.1-million project to make the highway route next to Kennedy Lake safer. Funded by the federal and provincial governments, the project entails widening each of the two lanes to 3.6 metres, while adding a 1.5-metre paved shoulder on either side with a concrete barrier between the highway and the lake below. The road is also being straightened to eliminate the curves that often forced larger transport vehicles to cross the centre line.

The extensive blasting and excavation is eliminating overhanging rock, but some large cedar trees have also been removed. This old growth is being given to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation for cultural and community purposes, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

The highway project is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2020.

“The ministry apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the extended closure,” said the province’s transportation department. “We remind motorists to check DriveBC.ca for updates.”