We have been contacted by several members regarding the unexpected delays and closures on Hwy. 4 as part of the Kennedy Hill upgrade project. We have been in touch with the Ministry of Transportation project managers Darren Englund and Mike Boissonnault on three main questions regarding traffic direction after closures, posted versus actual opening times after closures, and the reason for unexpected closures. Please see the points below and send us your feedback or additional questions at any time.
*Italics indicate our questions.
Why does westbound (towards Tofino) traffic go first after a closure, given that many people travelling out of town have appointments or are trying to catch ferries and planes? (answered by Darren Englund)
The deciding reason was actually not based on the comments received but rather relating to queue management and safety of that approach to the project site. With the sharp corners and windy alignment on the Alberni side of the site, the more we can keep queues on that side of the site shorter, this helps to avoid someone approaching the end of a building queue at speed. The Tofino side of the site is relatively long tangents, and site lines to the queue allow approaching drivers (even when above the posted speed) to safely come to a stop at the end of the queue. For this reason, it was decided that the Alberni side (Ucluelet/Tofino bound) traffic would be released first.
Opening times have not been precise. For example, when the posted opening is 7am but the road doesn’t open until closer to 8am. (answered by Mike Boissonnault)
The contractor strives to ensure the road can be safely opened for morning traffic after the night time blasting operations. Traffic is released after closures as single lane alternating, with west bound traffic as the priority. Although west bound traffic may be released around 7am, it may take 10-15 minute before east bound is mobile. Although there may be occasions when the target time of a 7am opening cannot be achieved, it is related to ongoing clean up of blast rock off the highway and to ensure when the road is open, it provides for safe passage of traffic.
What is the reason for the unplanned longer closures we’ve experienced this summer and if they are related to heavier blasting, is that something that will continue this fall? (answered by Mike Boissonnault)
I am aware that there have been occasions where more materials than anticipated from blasting operations have occurred. The significantly greater volume and size of materials that have fallen onto the road surface have required more time to safely remove. I am also aware that the current blasting operations are removing rock from higher elevations above the road. With this type of blasting, there is a risk that entrainment of rock from lower elevations is subsequently released, resulting in greater volumes of material removed from the rock face. Despite the highly trained folks setting up blasting operations, there can be unexpected outcomes resulting in more material released than anticipated. Once again, the road cannot be opened until it is safe to do so. When greater volumes of materials are released, work crews place this as top priority to open the road as safely and as quickly as possible. When these unexpected events occur, media notices and stakeholder updates will be provided so everyone impacted by the event is informed in a timely manner. The blasting operations are scheduled to continue into the fall season.