(This is part four of a TRUCK TALK series exploring different options for an industrial truck route through or around Port Alberni. Read the intro here, part one here, part two here and part three here.)
Ring Road: trucks turn south off Hwy. 4 just before the Black Powder Range to emerge on Franklin River Rd.
Of all the possible industrial truck routes that have been discussed in the past three decades, the ring road stands out for many a reason—most of them outlined in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District’s 2012 study.
“A ring road outside city limits would take all the logging trucks and we could direct heavy vehicles that way,” said Coun. Jack McLeman. He sits on the ACRD’s transportation committee.
The ring road proposal entirely removes trucks from the city by sending them off Hwy. 4 just before the access road to the Black Powder Range. Trucks would then turn off the highway through a $400,000 intersection and travel south for 4.9 kilometres along a mix of old, refurbished logging roads and new paths.
Then, the province—because the road travels far outside of city jurisdiction—would have a choice: southeast or southwest.
With the southeast option the road would head a little east and mostly south, following existing logging roads down to Bainbridge Lake and then connecting down to Franklin River Road about 4.8 kilometres east of the Ship Creek Road and Anderson Avenue intersection.
That has several issues; a max travel speed of 60 km/hr on the 10.3 kilometre route adds an extra six minutes onto the travel time of a truck wanting to get to the south end of Port Alberni. It also passes right beside the city’s water reservoir of Bainbridge Lake.
According to the study, storm water management has to be taken into account to ensure that contaminated water from the proposed road doesn’t enter any streams that flow into the lake.
The east option has its upsides. At $17.8 million, it’s a little cheaper than the southwest option. It also, the study notes, has a “rough balance of cuts and embankments.” This means that little extra waste will have to be disposed of.
It’s also a more direct route for trucks hoping to circumvent the city entirely and continue south down the logging roads.
The southwest option is more expensive—$20.5 million total. This route would follow the first 4.9 kilometres south from Hwy. 4 but then turn southwest for 4 km to intersect Franklin River road just one kilometre east of the Ship Creek Road and Anderson Avenue intersection.
It would bring trucks almost four kilometres closer to Port Alberni if their destination is the waterfront. The western route would also avoid any contamination issues with Bainbridge Lake.
The 2012 ACRD study includes building both legs as an option; that however would bring the cost up to about $28 million.
Either way, the road would require two bridges—over Rogers and Stokes Creeks—and generous provincial coffers.
And that, McLeman thinks, is unlikely to happen until an old bypass route the city is not currently considering is removed from the city’s official community plan.
“The government thinks that the ring road council wants in the OCP will suffice. Until we get rid of that I don’t see much movement,” McLeman said.
The proposed 2012 ring road remains the most ambitious option, but also the only one that takes heavy trucks outside of the city—and off its beaten down roads—altogether.