Highway 4 reopens for all vehicles after blast triggered rockfall

A section of Highway 4 reopened Saturday night after a rockfall spilled onto the roadway overnight Wednesday, cutting off Tofino and Ucluelet from the rest of the Island.

The province issued a traffic advisory at 8 p.m. saying all vehicles can now use the road, and that drivers should expect delays through Saturday night and this morning.

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Crews began working at noon Saturday to install a prefabricated 20-metre bridge that will allow single-lane alternating traffic, including commercial vehicles, RVs and other larger vehicles.

The province said the location of the slide made work challenging, as the bridge was installed in a narrow space between Kennedy Lake and a rock bluff.

The highway had a limited opening Saturday between 8 a.m. and noon for passenger vehicles and light pick-up trucks only. Vehicles were screened at the Tofino/Ucluelet junction and at Sproat Lake, where larger vehicles were turned around. Commercial trucks and vehicles with campers or towing trailers were not let through.

Two emergency support hubs are available in Pacific Rim National Park for people affected by the closure. Combers Beach parking lot is available for semi-trailer trucks and Green Point Campground overflow is available for RVs and campers.

About 6,000 people live in the Tofino/Ucluelet area, and Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said Friday her town was beginning to feel a bit of a pinch from the closure, with some shelves in food stores looking bare. “It’s well known that we’re out of fresh vegetables, milk and eggs,” Osborne said Saturday. “Maybe we’ll get a few supply trucks in tomorrow.”

Wednesday night’s blast was part of the $38.1-million Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement Project, which will make a 1.5-kilometre section of road on the hill wider and straighter. An unexpectedly large volume of rock from the blasting fell on rain-saturated ground, causing a portion of the shoulder and travelling surface to slough away, the Transportation Ministry said.

Regularly scheduled road closures to accommodate construction will resume tonight, the ministry said. Drivers can check DriveBC for the Kennedy Hill project closure schedule, as well as current road conditions throughout the province.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

— With files from Jeff Bell

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