Skip to main content

Highway 4 on track to fully reopen by Labour Day, but concerns about future closures loom

Highway 4 leading to the west coast of Vancouver Island is set to fully reopen before the upcoming Labour Day long weekend, after it shut down following a devastating wildfire in early June.

“The soils become what they call hydrophobic, which essentially means they’ve become fully baked, there’s no organics, there’s no roots basically holding anything on those embankments down anymore,” said Ashok Bhatti, executive director of the Ministry of Transportation for the South Coast region.

What began as an initial three-week full closure turned into single-lane alternating traffic all summer long.

Recently there have been two full day closures to complete scaling work along the slope above the road, with another scheduled for Tuesday.

“Just a tremendous amount of materials that we have been able to bring down,” said Bhatti. “We just have this small section on Angel Rock that’s left, that’s what prompted the closure for tomorrow.”

The highway disruptions have deterred many travellers from making the trip to the west coast.

“It’s just been a really challenging, frustrating year,” said Krissy Montgomery, owner and operator of Surf Sister Surf School.

The challenges began for Montgomery when a lot of her staff who were students or temporary foreign workers, ineligible for unemployment insurance, left the resort community during the initial closure.

“They just had to look out for themselves, leave town and seek employment elsewhere, which is totally understandable,” said Montgomery.

After the closure, travellers did return, but nowhere near levels seen during past years.

Montgomery says there is a reserved optimism within Tofino’s tourism community once the road fully reopens, hopefully this time for good.

“We are hoping that we can make some gains in the fall, but we’ll just have to wait and see and put some faith in the roadwork,” said the surf school owner.

In July, the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce conducted a study estimating the economic losses caused by the closure of the route between June 6 and June 23.

It found Tofino lost nearly $30 million, while Ucluelet took a $14 million hit.

With tourism numbers still down due to the Highway 4 reconstruction, Tourism Tofino believes the economic losses haven’t subsided.

The concern now from stakeholders on the west coast is that more closures could come once the rainy season begins. That is something that the Ministry of Transportation says it will be monitoring, making sure the slope above the highway is safe.

“Depending on the intensity of the rain and what we’re seeing, there might be more assessments that we need to do and potentially have to close it down to do those assessments,” said Bhatti.

For now, the ministry says it’s confident in the work that will be completed by the end of this week to fully reopen the road once again. Top Stories

These are the 5 headlines you should read this morning

A gunman kills three people on a Las Vegas school campus, Pierre Poilievre threatens to delay MPs' holidays and a Saskatchewan veteran receives France's highest order of distinction. Here's what you need to know to start your day.

Stay Connected