The Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to a flipped fuel truck on Highway 4 near Kennedy Lake in June, 2017. (Photo-Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade)

$30 million project to make Hwy 4 to Tofino better

Highways crews set to smooth out the Kennedy Lake climb starting this spring

The wildest stretch of highway leading to the Pacific Rim of Vancouver Island is getting its rough edges smoothed out.

The tight, steep, cliffside Highway 4 climb down to Kennedy Lake on the way to Tofino is getting a 1.5-kilometre, $30 million makeover that will take two years, and frequent road closures, to complete.

Construction will begin this spring and is expected to last until the summer of 2020, according B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which has unveiled a proposed schedule of highway closures that it says are needed to get the job done.

READ MORE: Upgrades announced for highway to Tofino and Ucluelet

The current schedule suggests the highway will close in both directions everyday from 10 p.m. to midnight and again from 1-4 a.m. and 5-7 a.m. Travellers can expect roughly 30 minute delays during daylight hours as the road will be open to single-lane, alternating traffic.

Ministry spokesperson Danielle Pope said the work includes removing more than 300,000 cubic metres — roughly 130 Olympic-sized swimming pools — worth of earth and rock to allow for the road, and its shoulders to be widened and a new roadside barrier to be installed between the highway and the lake.

She explained that this stretch of highway will also be straightened out and flattened and a hazardous, overhanging, rock will be removed. A new rest area and viewpoint is also expected to be completed.

“Discussions have been ongoing over the past year with First Nations, emergency responders, Parks Canada and business and tourism associations,” Pope said. “This input, along with the feedback from the public information sessions, will be used to finalize the construction timeline, including overnight traffic stoppage periods and a protocol for emergency response.”

READ MORE: Highway construction to face nightly closures this summer

She added conversations are also ongoing with local first responders.

“Ministry staff are working closely with first responders to develop an emergency protocol that will ensure emergency vehicles have access through the site at all times during an incident,” she said. “There will also be a contingency plan to open the highway for an evacuation should a disaster event occur.”

The $30 million bill for the work is being split between the provincial and federal government, with the province handling the lion’s share at $16.5 million.

Highway 4 was blocked in both directions several times last year prompting Ucluelet’s mayor Dianne St. Jacque to lobby for a car-ferry service as an alternate route of travel.

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