The provincial transportation ministry has decided a second route into Port Alberni via Horne Lake is not viable, deflating decades of hope for Alberni Valley residents.
Instead, the ministry will spend $24 million on improvements to Highway 4 between the Alberni Summit (known locally as the ‘Hump’) and Angel Rock, an overhang at a particularly twisty part of the highway. The Horne Lake route was deemed too expensive at an estimated cost of $92 million, with a projected eight per cent of traffic from the North Island making use of the new route.
An engineering report and consultation on the improvements will take about a year.
The ministry brags that over the past five years the province has invested $1.8 million in ‘safety enhancements’ on the 40-kilometre stretch of road between the Highway 19 turnoff and Port Alberni, which begs the question: how much cumulatively has the province spent ‘improving’ that stretch? How would that compare to the $92 million price tag of a connector?
What will happen in the event of a major closure, if we needed to evacuate people from Port Alberni to the east side of the Island? We will still only have one route in and one route out.
Port Alberni city councillor Jack McLeman is right: this decision is shortsighted.
If a silver lining could come out of this decision, it is the hope that government transportation dollars saved will fall favourably on the Bamfield Road to have it paved, and even better, to complete a circle route to Lake Cowichan.