After more than two weeks of closure, Highway 4 on Vancouver Island will reopen at 3 p.m. (Pacific time) on Friday, June 23, 2023.
The highway will operate with single-lane-alternating traffic at Cameron Lake Bluffs to keep travellers safe and accommodate safety measures to minimize the hazard of falling debris as the slope continues to recover from the effects of wildfire.
“Highway 4 is a crucial route for our Island communities of Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, and we know the disruption of this corridor has been a challenge for everyone living in and visiting the region,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “We thank the forest companies, the maintenance contractor and its workers, BC Wildfire Service fire-suppression teams, Indigenous communities and all the ministry staff who have worked tirelessly to make reopening possible today.”
Highway 4 will be open to residents, travellers and commercial traffic. The ministry urges all drivers to use patience as traffic queues are expected to be extensive.
The detour will remain available until Highway 4 fully reopens. The ministry will continue to monitor traffic flow and safety through the site to determine if any further restrictions are warranted.
“I thank the people, families and businesses in Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet who have been patient, understanding and supportive of the incredible work undertaken to allow the highway to reopen,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. “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.”
The highway will have a phased opening, with successful mitigation efforts – such as installation of a temporary concrete barrier wall and protective mesh curtains – acting as barricades to potential falling debris. A full reopening is expected in July.
The highway has been closed since June 6, 2023, to keep travellers safe as crews fought the Cameron Lake Bluffs wildfire and performed recovery operations. A detour was established between Port Alberni and Lake Cowichan using forest-service and privately owned industrial roads.
Drivers are reminded to respect the direction of traffic-control personnel in the area.
What travellers can expect:
- Single-lane-alternating traffic (SLAT) will be in force around the clock along the Cameron Lake Bluffs section of Highway 4.
- Pilot cars on rotation will lead traffic through the area.
- The length of the SLAT is approximately two kilometres.
- The construction zone speed limit is 30 kilometres per hour.
- SLAT is open to all types of commercial and passenger vehicles, except oversized loads.
- Oversized loads (those requiring permits) must use the detour.
- There is no essential-travel-only recommendation for either route (Highway 4 or the detour).
- Drivers should be prepared for lengthy queues on Highway 4.
- Driver should continue to be prepared for challenging driving conditions along the detour route.
- Drivers are encouraged to fuel up and take extra supplies, food and water for both routes, and will be expected to move through the SLAT on Highway 4 with the pilot cars.
- Vehicles will not be permitted to stop at parks or along roadsides in the area.
- Cyclists will be accommodated through the single-lane-alternating traffic zone, assuming the entire lane and travelling within the group of piloted vehicles.
- No passing will be permitted in the work zone.
- To limit disruptions to traffic flow, tow trucks will be staged at either end of the closure to assist motorists in the event of breakdowns.
- The ministry will continue to monitor the safety of this area for all traffic and will adjust safety measures to conditions.
Sharie Minions, mayor of Port Alberni –
“On behalf of the City of Port Alberni, we are incredibly grateful to the firefighters, highway crews and all professionals who have worked to get our highway safely reopened. This opening comes as a huge relief to our community. It has been a difficult few weeks, reflecting just how critical this connection is to our daily lives. Port Alberni is a community that comes together in times of challenge and this situation has once again affirmed our resilience.”
Heather Riddick, chair, Tourism Ucluelet –
“The impact of the highway closure has been hard for all our communities, especially tourism businesses – so many of which were just gearing up for a busy summer season when the wildfire happened. We’re grateful for the efforts of wildfire crews and all the people who’ve worked so hard to get primary access to our beautiful part of Vancouver Island reopened. Our communities and businesses are ready to welcome guests back and share everything the West Coast has to offer.”
Laura McDonald, president, Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce –
“This is welcome news for our small businesses that have been struggling during this extended highway closure. We thank the coastal communities and Alberni Valley for supporting local during this time, as well as the transportation companies and suppliers that went above and beyond to keep shelves stocked, and the firefighters and those working to reopen the highway. We look forward to welcoming back visitors, who are so crucial to our local economies and hope for your continued support to limit disruptions to the flow of traffic.”
For information about BC Parks closures along this route, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023ENV0037-000995 or www.DriveBC.ca (http://www.drivebc.ca/)
Images from Highway 4 and the detour route can be found online: