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Work begins on resurfacing of Bamfield road in wake of fatal bus crash

Gold shovels broke ground this week for the start of resurfacing work on Bamfield Main Road, an upgrade promised by the province after two University of Victoria students died in a 2019 bus crash on a narrow part of the gravel road.
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From left, Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr., Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, Alberni-Clayoquot regional director Bob Beckett, MLA Josie Osborne, Tseshaht Chief Councillor Waamiiš (Ken Watts), Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Bamfield Main upgrades. Credit: Heather Thomson, Huu-ay-aht First Nations

Gold shovels broke ground this week for the start of resurfacing work on Bamfield Main Road, an upgrade promised by the province after two University of Victoria students died in a 2019 bus crash on a narrow part of the gravel road.

The 76-kilometre link between Bamfield and Port Alberni will now be chip-sealed. The province is contributing $25.7 million and Huu-ay-aht First Nations is covering the remaining $5 million.

“Today is an exciting day for our Nation — one we have been working towards for decades,” Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said in a statement.

Dennis Sr. said the upgrades will create a safe, reliable road for travellers, adding the Huu-ay-aht First Nations is making history as the first Indigenous community to lead a road-infrastructure project of this size.

The groundbreaking took place Monday at the first gravel pit that the First Nation is developing for the project, with MP Gord Johns, MLA Josie Osborne and Alberni-Clayoquot regional director Bob Beckett in attendance. When completed, Blenheim Pit, in Huu-ay-aht’s traditional territory close to Bamfield, will supply the gravel needed for the road surfacing.

The work will take place in three sections of approximately 25 kilometers each. The contracts will be tendered in January, with work to begin in April and completed by mid-September. The contracts will include drainage and signage. The road will also be raised in numerous sections to prevent flooding.

One seal-coat contract covering the complete 76.6 kilometres will be tendered in March. The seal coating is expected to be completed by the end of September. In March 2023, a contract will be tendered for paving certain sections, including steep hills, major intersections and bridge approaches.

Barriers will also be installed to increase safety in specific locations.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com