Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel is unhappy with how commuters are being treated at the Kennedy Hill Improvement Project construction site. (Westerly file photo)

Ucluelet mayor demands Wi-Fi for commuters stuck in Hwy. 4 construction closures

“Once you get into that dead zone, you’re just in the abyss.”

Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel is urging the provincial government to bring wireless internet access to both ends of the current Kennedy Hill construction project so that motorists can be updated on what’s happening ahead of them.

“Once you get into that dead zone, you’re just in the abyss,” Noel told the Westerly News on Thursday. “We’re not talking about going to WalMart everyday. We’re talking about people going to doctors’ appointments, people missing their specialist appointments, people missing their flights and they can’t even communicate and get accurate information. The only people that get accurate information are the first 5-10 cars in the lineup. I have continued to bring this conversation up and I am really, really sick and tired of it.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Highway closures hit travellers heading in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet

Heavy rainfall caused a washout between Toquart Bay Road and Nahmit Forest Service Road on Wednesday, shutting the highway down in both directions and, while updates were provided through DriveBC, drivers caught in the closure could not access those updates as the area does not have cell service or wireless internet access.

“Half the town was screwed yesterday,” Noel said. “Every traveling motorist out there is being negatively impacted. I’m not slagging the contractors in any way, they have a very tough job to do and it’s compounded in this typical West Coast weather that we get.”

READ MORE: Highway 4 reopens after washout at Kennedy Hill construction site

Noel suggested that outside of Wednesday afternoon’s washout, scheduled closures associated with the ongoing $33 million Kennedy Hill Improvement Project have been consistently inconsistent and that’s increased frustration.

“There’s not anybody that can say that there’s been consistency with the openings,” he said. “They continue to change how they open the lineup and it’s a frustration. When are they going to start listening and provide us Wi-Fi services at either end of the worksite so we can actually communicate?”

READ MORE: Rock blasting debris shuts down highway between Tofino-Ucluelet and rest of Vancouver Island

He said Wi-Fi would allow commuters to get up to date information about any delays and contact the people waiting for them on the other side of the highway.

“I am not attacking the contractor, I am attacking the fact that there is no communication,” he said. “[The Ministry of] Highways need to get with the program and realize that connecting motorists when they’re being interrupted needs to be one of their top priorities on top of moving people around this province.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Frequent closures on only highway in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet expected to continue until Summer of 2020

Noel said he was penning a letter to B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on Thursday to reemphasize his concerns.

“I bring this up repeatedly every time I have the opportunity and this is another opportunity. We could have this weather until April and, if we have that, they’re going to have upsets and there needs to be better lines of communication. We’re not talking just about tourism here, we’re talking about fish trucks; we’re talking about our goods and services,” he said. “If we lived in more of an urban setting, like Parksville, Campbell River or Victoria, this wouldn’t be tolerated…Let’s just get on with this.”

The Westerly News has reached out to the ministry for comment and will update this story when new information comes in.



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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READ MORE: Construction on Hwy. 4 halted after tree crashes into traffic

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