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Highway 4 near Port Alberni reopens to two-way traffic

An aerial view of Angel Rock at Cameron Lake Bluffs on Highway 4. (Photo courtesy Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

Highway 4 east of Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island, has fully re-opened to two-way traffic after weeks of stabilization to an area that had been burned in a wildfire in June.

Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, made the announcement on social media Thursday morning, thanking everyone who worked hard to ensure that the road could safely re-open.

“It’s been a very challenging summer for everyone, and so many people have worked tirelessly to fight the wildfire that started this all, to establish a detour and help keep supply chains and essential travel open, and to undertake complex and dangerous recovery work on the Cameron Bluffs so our key transportation corridor can be safely used,” she said.

The highway was fully closed back in June after a wildfire along Cameron Bluffs near Angel Rock reached the road. Crews spent the next few months working on rock scaling and slope stabilization while traffic was opened to single-lane alternating traffic. Crews removed 250 dangerous trees and 1,000 tonnes of rock debris.

Additional work included placement of the catchment fencing, bolting rocks, installment of a weather station and pavement patching, line marking and sign installation.

Drivers posting on social media Thursday morning said all the heavy equipment and cranes had been removed from the work site. Aside from a brief delay to complete installation of rock fencing, the reopening seemed to go smoothly, according to drivers.

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions was “incredibly relieved” at the news. “This is a huge step for our community for sure, and the whole region,” she said Friday morning. “This has been a very challenging summer in a number of ways. There was a lot of scepticism as to whether or not the highway would actually be open to double lane traffic.”

Minions said crews were able to do some work in the area that had been delayed for several years. Angel Rock has been under observation for quite a while, she said. “What I understand is…they were able to complete that work. A fairly significant scope of work was undertaken during this.

“As much as it was a very challenging time, it was a good opportunity to really improve an area that we all know needed it.”

John Alan Jack, chair of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and Elected Chief Councillor of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, said the closures and roadwork on Highway 4 has been felt throughout the ACRD.

“The impact to the entire region has been significant, both in terms of the general day-to-day disruption of commuting and logistics as well as the impact it’s had on hospitality and tourism has been significant as well.”

Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, thanked the crews “who worked tirelessly to make reopening possible,” as well as everyone who waited “patiently” for two-way traffic to resume. “We know how important it is for Highway 4 to be fully open in both directions to all travellers,” he said in a statement.

“It’s been a challenging season for people and businesses in the Alberni Valley and on the west coast, so it’s very welcome news that we can travel safely to visit family, make medical appointments and commute to and from work,” MLA Osborne said.

Osborne added there will be more information coming from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in the next few weeks about the impact of stormy fall weather on the highway.