Province, First Nation to spend $30M to upgrade site of deadly 2019 bus crash
VICTORIA -- The B.C. government and a Vancouver Island First Nation have committed to spending more than $30 million to upgrade a road where a bus crash last year killed two University of Victoria students and injured several others.
The crash occurred on Sept. 13, 2019, when a bus carrying 45 UVic students and two teaching assistants slid off a logging road between Port Alberni and Bamfield as it was moving over for an oncoming vehicle to pass.
The accident claimed the lives of two 18-year-old students, Emma Machado of Winnipeg, Man. and John Geerdes of Iowa City, Iowa.
The province announced Friday it would contribute $25.7 million for upgrades, while the Huu-ay-aht First Nation would contribute an additional $5 million for the project.
The 76-kilometre stretch of gravel road on the west coast of Vancouver Island has been the site of numerous serious accidents over the years, claiming the lives of Huu-ay-aht members and other travellers, the province noted.
"Upgrading the Bamfield Road has been a top priority for our Nation for many years, and we are pleased by today's announcement," said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr.
The roadway upgrades will include resurfacing with a hard, sealed coat, according to the province.
"We have worked in partnership with Huu-ay-aht First Nations on a solution that will make the trip to and from Bamfield and Anacla a safer one, helping to avoid heartbreaking tragedies and bringing peace of mind to everyone who travels the road," said B.C. Premier John Horgan.
"This project is part of our ongoing work to support a robust recovery from COVID-19 and a more secure future for British Columbians – built around people and strong, resilient communities," he added.
Bamfield Road is the main transportation link between Port Alberni and the remote communities of Bamfield and. It is also the key route to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, which is where the UVic bus full of students was headed when it slid off the road.
The total cost of the upgrade is estimated at $30.7 million over three years.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nation will also provide in-kind resources, including gravel from gravel pits on their treaty lands, which are expected to result in significant cost savings for the project, according to the province.