VICTORIA — A key highway that connects communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island is partially reopening Friday afternoon, after being closed for more than two weeks due to a wildfire that sent trees and debris tumbling onto the route.
A statement from the Transportation Ministry says Highway 4 east of Port Alberni will operate with single-lane alternating traffic for a two-kilometre stretch.
It says lines of traffic are expected to be “extensive,” and the province is asking drivers to be patient.
The highway was closed June 6 as a wildfire burned up the slope, leaving cutoff communities including Tofino and Ucluelet to rely on a back road detour that will remain available until the highway is fully operational.
The highway is reopening with safety measures including temporary concrete walls and protective mesh curtains to protect drivers from any falling debris.
The ministry says a full reopening is expected sometime next month.
In the meantime, the province has temporarily closed three day-use parks in the area to help reduce traffic congestion, including MacMillan Provincial Park, the home of centuries-old trees in Cathedral Grove, and the picnic areas of Cameron Lake and Beaufort in Little Qualicum Falls.
The wildfire that closed the route has been declared “under control” by the BC Wildfire Service.
Josie Osborne, B.C.’s energy minister and representative for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, thanked people for their patience while work was underway to reopen the highway at 3 p.m. Friday.
“Our communities are thrilled to be able to welcome back visitors, see residents be able to commute to work and know that the goods and materials we depend on are flowing more easily.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2023.
The Canadian Press