Kennedy Hill Construction Project falls behind schedule

Melissa Renwick, April 8, 2020

Previously set for completion this summer, blasting damage and coronavirus issues have delayed work to improve the Highway 4 passage over Kennedy Lake. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo)

Tofino, BC — 

The Kennedy Hill Construction Project was slated for completion in summer 2020, but the B.C. Ministry of Transportation recently announced that its end date has been pushed back to this coming winter.

A controlled blast that caused a rockslide larger than expected wiped out a section of the road in late-January. The accident cut off Clayoquot Sound’s communities from the rest of the island for days and caused many residents to recognize just how dependent they are on the highway.

As the grocery shelves in Tofino and Ucluelet’s Co-ops sat empty, many worried about when the delivery trucks would be able to make it across again.

The Kennedy corridor is a major transport artery for the west coast of Vancouver Island and any delay is a burden on the region, said Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Administrator Saya Masso.

“We wish they’d be pushing through right now while tourism is slow.”

Maintaining optimism, Masso said that hopes that the project will be completed before its new target date.

“If you have to travel to Port Alberni for any type of emergency, you get an anxious feeling about encountering that construction site,” he said.

Despite previously contending that the rockslide would not impede the completion date, the Ministry of Transportation has changed their tone.

“Factors affecting the completion date include the fast-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the need for more complex blasts due to variable rock, increased environmental protections and the repairs to Highway 4 resulting from blasting damage at the project site in January,” the Ministry of Transportation said in a press release.

In response to COVID-19, contractor Emil Anderson Construction had employees in isolation for 14-days following international travel. While Emil Anderson Construction expects to ramp up its blasting operations as employees return to work, the Ministry of Transportation said that the pandemic has impacted their daily operations and that the developing situation poses the possibility of more delays.

It is too soon to know how the delays will impact the project budget, which currently sits at $38.1 million.

The announcement revealed that as blasting on site continues to be the key activity, the contractor anticipates being able to shorten highway closures in the next few months.