As cool fall temperatures set in, residents of Anacla and Bamfield are seeing their notoriously dusty, bumpy, and dangerous access road improve as crews near the end of the final segment of chip sealing just outside of Port Alberni.
Bamfield Main is a 76-kilometre industrial road, mostly located on the traditional territory of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, that acts as a link between the communities of Anacla, Bamfield, and Port Alberni.
The rough, gravel road has claimed many lives over the years, including Huu-ay-aht’s Tyee Ha’wilth Art Peters several years ago. But it was an accident involving a bus carrying university students, where two of them tragically died, that drew the province to Huu-ay-aht leadership to work on solutions.
In September 2020 Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the Province of B.C. announced they would work together to make significant safety improvements to the 76-kilometre logging road. The province committed $25.7 million and Huu-ay-aht First Nation contributed $5 million to improve the road. Cost have since exceeded this, with Huu-ay-aht covering the excess, according to their agreement with the province.
The road is managed by two logging companies. Western Forest Products oversees about 60 kilometres while Mosaic operates about 18 kilometres.
Over several months this year the road was prepared to be resurfaced by chip seal, which is not as durable but is far less expensive than asphalt paving.
Chip sealing involves layering hot, liquid asphalt with a fine layer of aggregate. It is suitable for low traffic roadways while asphalt is better suited to high traffic areas. The lifespan for chip seal is about seven years compared to about 20 for asphalt. The cost of chip seal resurfacing is about a quarter that of asphalt paving.
By September 9, kilometres 32 to 76 on the Anacla/Bamfield end was completely chip sealed.
Grading, preparation, and chip sealing for the remainder of the Bamfield road on the Port Alberni end has continued throughout the month of September. Travellers on the route have faced short waits with single-lane alternating traffic involving pilot trucks at active construction zones.
By late September, Bamfield locals posted on social media that most of the chip seal is complete with just a few kilometers…some say about 15 and some say less than five kilometres, to reach the paved road in Port Alberni.
Huu-ay-aht councillor Brad Johnson reported that as of September 20, crews only needed to apply the second coat of chip seal over the last 20 kilometers of road on the Port Alberni end.
“If the weather cooperates and does not down pour rain this work should be done by next Tuesday,” Johnson told Ha-Shilth-Sa in an email. “As for sweeping they will continue to sweep daily and hope to be done before the holiday on the 2nd (of October) . Work is going very well out there and the road looks great,” he added.
When the final layer of chip seal is applied, the new surface needs to cured then it must be swept.
Motorists are reminded that there will be short delays, with single-lane alternating traffic guided by a pilot vehicle for the remainder of the project. Drivers are reminded to follow the posted speed limits when driving on the new chip seal.
“The road surface will be dusty and slippery if sweeping is underway or has not been completed. Please avoid slow, sharp turns on the seal coat while it continues to set up,” warns Huu-ay-aht First Nation. “Please use four-wheel drive, as well, especially on the hills. These are necessary to ensure a safe work site and not cause damage to the road or vehicles.”
Huu-ay-aht invites people to join them in celebration of the project completion at the House of Huu-ay-aht in Anacla on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, starting at noon.