The Province is launching engineering work for Highway 4 corridor upgrades and safety improvements, following a review of the Highway 4 Horne Lake Connector business case, which concluded that an alternative route between Port Alberni and Highway 19 is not financially feasible.
“As part of our commitment through B.C. on the Move, we assessed the costs and benefits of an alternative connection between the Island Highway and Port Alberni,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “We have concluded that the costs of constructing and maintaining a new highway outweigh the expected benefits for travellers. Moving forward, we are looking at making a number of improvements to ensure this section of Highway 4, which is vital to Vancouver Island’s economy, continues to meet the needs of the communities it serves.”
The study examined various alignments around Horne Lake and estimated construction, operating and maintenance costs. Recognizing that the Highway 4 corridor between Highway 19 and Port Alberni will remain an important east-west transportation route with or without a new connector, the study developed and analyzed potential improvements to increase the safety, reliability and capacity of this section of the existing corridor.
The report, based on a 35-year analysis period, confirms the estimated total cost of a Horne Lake Connector would be about $92 million. Investing approximately $24 million in improvements to the existing highway is projected to have a comparable return in terms of safety and user benefits.
While the new route would result in travel-time savings for the 8% of travellers going to and from the North Island, the remaining 92% of travellers would see no net benefit. As such, the Government of British Columbia is not considering the building of a Horne Lake connector route at this time. Instead, government will focus on upgrades to improve the safety, mobility and reliability of Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Highway 19.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is initiating engineering work on the following projects:
- safety improvements at Cathedral Grove, which is an increasingly popular tourist destination where the demand for parking now exceeds the room available in the busy summer tourist season;
- extension of the westbound passing lane near the Port Alberni “Hump” including improvements at the brake check to improve corridor mobility and commercial vehicle safety;
- an upgrade to the Highway 4/Highway 19 interchange by adding a westbound acceleration lane for drivers exiting Highway 19 and merging onto Highway 4; and
- widening the highway at Angel Rock, using a retaining wall structure to allow both sides to have roadside barriers as well as wider shoulders.
Ministry staff will continue to engage with the communities and all key stakeholders to discuss the report findings and future highway improvements. Engineering work and consultation for these projects is expected to take at least one year.
Over the past five years, the Province has invested approximately $1.8 million in safety enhancements along this 40-kilometre stretch of highway, including:
- a new left-turn lane at Whiskey Creek;
- a roadside barrier near Cameron Lake;
- centreline rumble strips between Qualicum and Port Alberni;
- better roadside delineation at various locations; and
- seasonal speed-reader boards to remind travellers of the reduced speed limit through Cathedral Grove.
The Highway 4 Horne Lake Connector business case report is available on the ministry’s website: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-reports-and-reference/reports-studies/vancouver-island