The only road in and out of the West Coast is getting a multi-million-dollar makeover.
Canada's Minister of infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi joined B.C.'s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone on March 9 to announce their respective governments have committed to splitting a $27 million bill to upgrade a portion of the Pacific Rim Highway roughly 14 kilometres east of the West Coast junction.
"We identified Highway 4 widening and alignment improvements near Kennedy Lake as a priority in our BC on the Move transportation plan," Stone said through a joint media release. "Thanks to this valuable partnership with Canada, we are now moving forward on this project that will improve safety on this vital route linking the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet, and providing access to the Pacific Rim National Park."
The project will focus on widening and straightening a roughly 1.5 kilometre stretch of highway that's currently a terrifying 30 km/h zone rife with sharp turns and blind corners.
"This project will make it safer and easier for local residents, tourists and commercial drivers travelling along kennedy Lake," Sohi said through the release."The Government of Canada will continue to work in close collaboration with British Columbia to ensure we make smart infrastructure investments that help provide job opportunities for the middle-class and build the Canada of tomorrow."
The project is expected to get underway in the spring of 2018 and will take roughly two years to complete.
“This is great news,” Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News. “It is definitely the most challenging section of highway for passenger vehicles, buses, and transport trucks between the West Coast and Port Alberni.”
She said safety improvements on that portion of highway have long been lobbied for by local officials and added West Coasters won't likely complain about the traffic delays caused by the much-needed work.
“I know that elected officials from Ucluelet and Tofino have brought this up to the Province repeatedly over the years, and I was happy to see it specifically included in the BC On the Move ten year transportation plan,” she said. “It’s exactly the kind of project that we can patiently withstand the inconvenience of construction knowing that safety will be vastly improved.”
The announcement was music to the ears of Ucluelet's longest serving current councillor Randy Oliwa, who said increased highway safety has been an annual ask at Union of B.C. Municipality conventions.
“Since I've been on council from 2008, we've met with several transportation ministers as mayor and councils every September and we've lobbied and pitched,” he said adding, several years ago, Ucluelet's then mayor Bill Irving invited ministry staff up to experience the highway first-hand.
“We actually had them come up and we put them in a vehicle and we drove them that section of highway and back. It was all those years of laying the foundation for the new highway foundation. It's a perpetual group effort and I'm excited about any improvements that will help that stretch for sure.”