Actual roadwork is yet to begin on a $30-million project to improve access to Bamfield in the wake of a fatal 2019 bus crash that killed two university students.
But an independent project to improve a section of the road is close to wrapping up.
Mosaic Forest Management is undertaking some road construction at the 7.6-kilometre marker of Bamfield Main; work began on Monday, Feb. 22 and was expected to take about two weeks to finish.
A Mosaic spokesperson warned that traffic control will be in place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and road users should expect temporary closures of up to 15 minutes between those times. No additional road closures are planned at this time following the construction at the 7.6-kilometre marker.
This construction is separate from the planned $30-million upgrade to the 76-kilometre-long gravel road that was announced in September 2020, a year after two University of Victoria students died and numerous others were injured when the bus they were riding in rolled off the road during a storm.
“We’ve started some work but it’s geotechnical work that’s going on right now. It’s before the actual construction,” Huu-ay-aht First Nations chief councillor Robert Dennis Sr. said.
The road is the main ground transportation link between Port Alberni, Bamfield and Anacla. Plans are to chipseal the unpaved industrial road. This will give it a hard surface but is not as permanent or expensive as paving it.
Dennis Sr. anticipates road drainage work will start in April, but construction won’t begin in earnest until June. The project is slated for completion in the fall of 2023. “That’s within the time frame we agreed with the province, over a three-year time frame. A lot of that is weather permitting,” he said.
Costs for upgrades to the road are being split between the Province of B.C. ($25.7 million) and Huu-ay-aht First Nations ($5 million).
The Huu-ay-aht, whose territory includes Anacla and Bamfield on Vancouver Island’s west coast, are overseeing the project with technical support from consulting firm Urban Systems. This is the first time a First Nation has taken the lead on a road construction project in B.C.
“That’s significant,” Dennis Sr. said, adding it wouldn’t have happened even five years ago.
“We’ve developed a relationship where the province trusts us that we can do the work. That’s a huge reconciliation piece of work.”
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