The Highway 4 – Kennedy Hill Improvement Project remains slated to be substantially complete this fall, with finishing touches outside of the roadway continuing throughout the winter.
Drivers travelling on Highway 4 can still expect delays as the road improvement project enters the final stages of construction. The project is approximately 90 per cent complete.
According to the provincial government, throughout the fall, hourly road closures, with top-of-the-hour releases, will take place daily from 5 a.m. until 3 p.m. and from 7-11 p.m. Single-lane alternating traffic will be implemented seven days a week from 3-7 p.m. and nightly closures will continue to take place from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m., with a release to clear queued traffic at 2 a.m.
Hourly closures will provide crews with up to 45-minute work windows throughout the day, speeding up work on road profile blasting, rock and slope stabilization, foundation building for cantilever structures and other work.
Safety improvements over the 1.5-kilometre project length include widening the highway to accommodate two full lanes and paved shoulders, horizontal realignments to the highway to remove the sharp blind corners, as well as blasting and excavating bedrock to eliminate existing overhanging rock above the road surface.
Improvements will also include the addition of a rest area with a viewpoint on the lake side of the new highway, with an intersection to access the facility by passenger vehicle, RV, bus, and transport truck.
The project budget has been increased to $53.96 million from $38.1 million and includes $13.5 million in federal funding under the New Building Canada Fund.
According to the province, several factors increased the project budget and delayed completion. These include the COVID-19 pandemic, repairs to Highway 4 resulting from blasting damage at the project site in January 2020, increased environmental protections and the need for smaller blasts due to the nature of the fractured bedrock.
“Increased environmental protections were established for a small tributary stream that was initially identified as non-fish bearing at the onset of construction. It has since been protected as fish-bearing,” said the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). “Other small drainage sites were identified where further restorative planting and settlement pond containments were established to maintain runoff water quality.”
The ministry said the most challenging element of the project has been the need for small, high-precision blasting “to protect the sensitive environmental habitat of Kennedy Lake and critical overhead utility infrastructure that serves people who live in or visit Tofino, Ucluelet, and the surrounding area.”
According to the MoTI, this blasting process removed more than 180,000 cubic metres of rock more than 50 metres high along 1.5 kilometres of highway.
“The Highway 4 – Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project will make the road safer and easier for people who live and visit special destinations like Tofino and Ucluelet, stimulating economic development and tourism opportunities,” said the MoTI.