The New Year will bring a new highway closure schedule for travellers heading in and out of the Tofino-Ucluelet region.
B.C.’s ministry of transportation and infrastructure announced on Monday, Dec. 14, that the current 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. closure will shift to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday beginning Jan. 5.
The closures are due to a $38 million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvements Project being paid for by the provincial and federal governments.
The closure shift comes after the project’s contractor Emil Anderson Construction launched an online survey on Nov. 23 asking residents for input on the closure times and announced on Nov. 26 that the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. closure would move to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. based on the survey’s results.
The contractor’s announcement sparked confusion however as the ministry said no schedule changes had been approved or authorized and that the closure windows had not changed.
The ministry’s Dec. 14 announcement suggests it will indeed abide by the survey’s results.
“The new closure window follows input recently received from local residents, commercial operators and local stakeholders,” the ministry’s Dec. 14 announcement reads. “On-site geotechnical investigations determined that the safest time to blast is during daylight hours, to allow for safe and efficient removal of loose rock after each blast. Daytime blasting and scheduled road closures are expected to be required through spring 2021.”
The Tofino Long Beach chamber of commerce wrote a letter to the ministry in October urging for a change to the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. closure window because of the negative impacts that closure time was having on both businesses and residents.
The chamber’s executive director Jen Dart told the Westerly News on Monday that she was happy to see local voices heard.
“A daytime closure at any time is obviously going to continue to inconvenience West Coast residents, but the Chamber board is pleased that the ministry took our members’ concerns seriously and acted on them. We hope this type of communication and collaboration can continue for the duration of the project,” Dart said.
The Ucluelet chamber of commerce had supported Tofino’s push for a change and also expressed gratitude for the shift.
“While the change in time poses issues for some businesses, it benefits the majority, so we’re happy that our voices were heard and considered,” Ucluelet chamber of commerce executive director Laurie Filgiano told the Westerly.