Alberni Valley still waiting for highway

The Horne Lake Connector may be dead, but Coun. Jack McLeman so far isn’t impressed with the transportation ministry’s alternatives.

ELENA RARDON

ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS

The Horne Lake Connector may be dead, but Port Alberni City Councillor Jack McLeman so far isn’t impressed with the transportation ministry’s alternatives.

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) has long promoted the construction of a new highway in addition to Highway 4, linking the City of Port Alberni to the Inland Island Highway.

The construction of such a highway, according to a business case study, would address safety and congestion concerns and increase travel reliability in the case of an incident on Highway 4.

But the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been more vocal about making improvements to the existing Highway 4 than funding a new route. Earlier this month they announced the Horne Lake Connector was too expensive and therefore they would improve Highway 4 instead.

“We met with the (transportation) ministry and they explained that they might give us a 30-kilometre-per-hour road down to Lake Cowichan, which I didn’t think was something we were looking for,” Councillor Jack McLeman said during his report to the Port Alberni City Council on Monday Nov. 28.

“They gave us a sketch of a possible road,” explained McLeman. “The road is paved, but it’s very narrow. Speed isn’t something you’re going to be doing on it.

“It doesn’t open up any economy for us,” he added.

The theoretical road was compared to the Pacific Marine Circle Route, which is a remote route that travels from Victoria to Port Renfrew. The problem with a circle route, said McLeman, is that it does not provide a means in and out of Port Alberni.

“If you’re cut off from somewhere, you don’t get there,” said McLeman. “That’s our biggest concern, is the safety.”

He cited the devastating wildfires in Fort McMurray this summer, noting that most people were able to make it to safety because of the long stretch of straight highway. “We don’t have that.”

Some of these modifications proposed for Highway 4 include safety improvements at Cathedral Grove, an extension of the westbound passing lane near the Port Alberni “Hump,” an upgrade to the Highway 4/ Highway 19 interchange and widening of the highway at Angel Rock along Cameron Lake.

The Highway 4 improvements are scheduled to take place into 2027, which isn’t good enough for McLeman.

“These are Band-Aid solutions,” he said. “Why are they taking so long?”

The committee asked for a meeting with Minister Todd Stone to speed up the improvements on Highway 4, but was unable to meet with him. McLeman said another attempt at a meeting will be made.

Also at the Nov. 28 council meeting, councillor Dan Washington brought up a new Facebook group called “Port Alberni Summit Conditions (“How’s the Hump?”).”

The group allows people to supply live updates regarding the road conditions on the summit of Highway 4 for anyone travelling in or out of Port Alberni.

“It’s just a great tool to have,” said Washington.

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