The Pacific Rim Highway 4 is the only east-west corridor on Vancouver Island servicing the west coast communities of Ucluelet and Tofino as well as the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve at Long Beach. This is a critical route for moving goods, linking communities, and supporting a thriving tourism industry in the region.
The project is located adjacent to Kennedy Lake approximately 14km northeast of the Tofino/Ucluelet Highway 4 junction. The project starts at the bottom/south end of Kennedy Hill at the TR19 Creek culvert, and continues up the hill towards Port Alberni for a distance of approximately 1.5km.
The safety improvements over the 1.5 kilometre project length include:
- Widening the highway to accommodate two full lanes and paved shoulders, including roadside barrier along the lakeside of the highway
- Horizontal realignments to the highway to remove the sharp blind corners, straightening the road and eliminating the 30km/hr speed advisory curves
- Vertical realignments to the highway to reduce the existing 12% grade along the hill
- Blasting and excavating bedrock to accommodate the above, and eliminating the existing overhanging rock above the road surface that is a hazard to larger transport vehicles currently requiring them to cross centreline
- Providing for rock slope stabilization and slope meshing to mitigate rock fall onto the highway, including a rock catchment ditch
- Installing four cantilever bridge structures to straighten the alignment and reduce rock excavation volumes.
The provision of a rest area with view point on the lake side of the new highway, including an intersection to safely access the new facility by passenger vehicle, RV, bus, and transport truck.
The project budget has been increased to $53.96 million from $38.1 million and includes $13.5 million in federal funding under the New Building Canada Fund.
A variety of factors including the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for smaller blasts due to the nature of the fractured bedrock, increased environmental protections, and the repairs to Highway 4 resulting from blasting damage at the project site in January 2020 have contributed to a new projected project completion date and increase in budget. The project is now expected to be completed in summer 2022, and is currently approximately 75% complete.
After hearing strong support from local residents, emergency services and tourism companies, daytime closure windows will continue on the Highway 4 Kennedy Hill improvement project rather the reverting to late evening and nightly closures through this summer.
To accommodate continued work operations and the increasing summer traffic volumes, traffic will be released and fully cleared at the top of every hour through the day, and starting Monday July 12, daytime closures will resume on weekdays between 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. and between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with top of the hour traffic releases at all other times of the day and night. On weekends, drivers can expect top of the hour traffic releases.
Day-time closures have been in place since last year to allow crews to safely undertake some of the most complex blasting on the project. The blasting is necessary to widen and straighten the highway following along the high rock bluffs beside Kennedy Lake.
The ministry continues to work with Emil Anderson Construction in advancing the project to completion.
Featured image: (BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)