Travelers on Highway 4 between Port Alberni and the west coast can expect scheduled road closures as blasting resumes at the Kennedy Hill construction site.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in their information bulletin, released Sept. 20, that it has revised the blasting strategy to bring consistent and predictable highway-closure times to the people of Tofino and Ucluelet.
In late 2019 and early 2020 blasting mishaps caused prolonged and unexpected closures of the highway. The most notable incident occurred Jan. 22, 2020 when an excess of rock debris took out a section of the road, closing the only highway to the west coast for several days.
Located about 14 kilometres west of the Tofino/Ucluelet junction, the construction site begins at the base of Kennedy hill. It was a narrow, winding road that snaked its way along a sheer rock face.
Highway 4, a former logging road, is the only east-west connector from Port Alberni to the west coast communities.
The $38.1 million project began September 2018 with a scheduled completion date of this month.
In March, the Ministry of Transportation announced that the project would be scaled back in keeping with Worksafe BC advice during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since that time, the road remained open with single-lane alternating traffic through the construction zone.
The new blasting strategy, starting Sept. 30, 2020, will mean that there will be daily road closures from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as construction resumes.
According to the ministry, the road closures are necessary so that crews can safely facilitate smaller blasts and remove the rock debris from the roadway.
The closures will happen Monday through Friday, not on weekends.
“Smaller and more precise daytime blasts, with sufficient time to clear debris, will help boost safety for people and will limit unplanned highway closures like those experienced by drivers in the early spring of 2020,” stated the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in a news release.
The statement goes on to say that the new plan has been made following extensive onsite geotechnical investigations, which have determined that the safest time to blast is during daylight hours. This will allow for safe and efficient removal of loose rock after each blast.
“Daytime blasting and scheduled road closures are expected to be required until spring 2021. Next spring, after the bulk of the challenging blasting is complete, conditions will be re-evaluated to determine if night-time blasting can safely resume,” the ministry stated.
It is expected that blasting in the construction zone will be complete in summer 2021.
From now until Sept. 30 scheduled closures will be from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Drivers can continue to expect single-lane alternating traffic with up to 30-minute delays all other times.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure thanks people who rely on the highway for their patience and understanding during construction.
For the most up-to-date information on road conditions, drivers are encouraged to visit: www.DriveBC.ca
Call 1-855 451-7152 to listen to the travel information hotline message, updated daily during construction.
General project information is available at www.gov.bc.ca/highway4kennedyhill
Visit the project page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eac.bc.ca.kennedy.hill/
Follow @DriveBC and #BCHwy4 on Twitter