LETTER: Upgrade to Highway 4 ‘long overdue’

To the Editor,

I write to you concerning ways to improve the poor economy of the long-forgotten Alberni Valley. The most important infrastructure change that could immediately benefit the economies of Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Bamfield, would be the construction of new highways.

While many other BC communities have enjoyed years of infrastructure improvements, the Alberni area has received virtually no such benefits, although it has a population over 30,000.

Highway 4 is a slow and dangerous route that is poorly maintained. It is an impediment to tourism and dangerous for trucks, especially in the winter months.

A recent feasibility study for a new highway was rejected because of cost (only $25 million) and because it did not head south to Nanaimo. But consider that the proposed Horne Lake route reaches Highway 19 only eight minutes north of the present junction. It would also present new economic potentials between the Comox Valley and the Alberni Valley. If a southern route is preferred, start with Nanaimo River Road and extend it west of Mt. Arrowsmith.

But a new route should go beyond Port Alberni to Tofino and Ucluelet. This road needs extensive safety modifications, having dangerously narrow and winding sections. In addition, the route to Bamfield, where the famous West Coast Trail ends and where there is a research station, is a rocky two-hour drive on a gravel road in shameful condition. A new road to Bamfield could intersect with another to Lake Cowichan, which would open up the west coast of the island to new ventures.

In terms of population, the Alberni Valley is long overdue for an infrastructure upgrade. Just imagine the economic potential of this area, not just in terms of the lumber industry and the deep-sea port, but also the tremendous tourist potential.

Mark Blackham,

Port Alberni

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