Highway 4 was shut down on Monday as crews worked to remove rock debris from the only road in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet. (Photo - Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)

UPDATED: Rock blasting debris shuts down highway between Tofino-Ucluelet and rest of Vancouver Island

Only road in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet closed in both directions.

A bulldozer-sized rock crashed onto Highway 4 in the early morning hours of July 9, shutting down the road in both directions for over 12 hours as crews worked to remove it.

A rockface along the side of the highway is being blasted in order to widen the roadway as part of the provincial and federal government’s $38 million highway improvement project, but a scheduled blast around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning brought down more rock than expected, according to B.C. Ministry of Transportation Vancouver Island District Manager Mike Pearson

“We apologize for the inconvenience caused today and we sincerely appreciate everyone’s patience while we clean this up,” Pearson told the Westerly News.

READ MORE: Highway closures hit travellers heading in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet

Pearson said the blast occurred as planned, but a second area of rock was unexpectedly dislodged.

“We had some additional rock come down that we had not anticipated,” he said. “It wasn’t that the blast was too big, it just hit the other rock and caused that rock to slide out from where it was sitting.”

He said the road would likely reopen around 4 p.m.

“We’ve been working throughout the day here with equipment on site to bust up the rock and get it out of the way so that we can get the road reopened,” he said. “For context, the size of these rocks are the size of a bulldozer or a very large pickup truck, so they’re not small rocks by any means.”

He added that the project’s blasting work began in May, 2018, and over 200 blasts have been conducted.

“With every blast, we do our due diligence to assess the rockface, take note of any risks and then make a call based on the conditions that day and that time before doing any blasting. With today’s incident, there will be, and there’s a requirement for, a full investigation of what happened and why and what, if anything, needs to change in our processes,” he said.

He said the $38 million project is on schedule to be completed in the summer of 2020 and that about 50 per cent of the rock-blasting work is finished.

Ryan Wackett operates Westcoast Connect, a transportation company that delivers goods to and from the West Coast daily, and Wackett told the Westerly he had three, three-ton, trucks stuck in the highway closure as of 2 p.m.

“One since 6:30 a.m., one since 8:30 a.m. and one since about 11 a.m.,” he said. “If my three trucks don’t make it out there today, then I’m really in a pinch tomorrow because I have the same three full trucks running everyday.”

He said the closure has “massively” impacted his business, delaying deliveries and increasing his costs and added some of the goods his company delivers is time-sensitive for customers.

“We’re in touch with our customers and thankfully we have amazing customers on the West Coast that understand that they’re in an [isolated] place and things like this can happen,” he said. “I have an incredible team and incredible customers.”

He added though that he has concerns over what caused such a long delay.

“First of all, that scares me because did they even know what they were doing if they blasted off that much extra rock? What’s going on there? Is it safe?…How do you make that kind of a mistake?” he said.

He noted there has been other incidents related to the construction work being done, including a tree falling onto traffic and a boulder crashing into a power pole last summer and said travelling through the highway construction zone has become “nerve-wracking” for him and his employees.

He said Tuesday’s closure has also highlighted that there is only one road in and out of the West Coast and brought to mind the importance of area residents being prepared for an emergency.

“In light of recent earthquakes, it makes me think about the West Coast being cut off. This here is a huge disruption just for one day, but what if it’s a week? What if it’s 30 days?” he said. “You guys are cut off, literally, right now and this is just a small incident. So, I think of bigger situations, especially in light of earthquakes in the region, how prepared is the West Coast? People should be talking about that and thinking about it. It’s a big deal.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Construction on Hwy. 4 halted after tree crashes into traffic

READ MORE: Hwy. 4 construction mishap causes eight-hour power outage in Tofino and Ucluelet

READ MORE: Major construction project on highway to Tofino and Ucluelet delayed

Just Posted

Baker and Barbarians take Paris World Games by storm

Duncan rugby player helps Canadian side to gold

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan council to grill Catalyst July 23 on ‘end run’ around weir pumping agreement

Councillors want community out in force at meeting to hear what’s going on with the weir

Valley field hockey players bring home gold from nationals

Cowichan U18s help Island to unprecentend first-place finish

Peewee B Thunder capture provincial lacrosse title

Cowichan goes unbeaten all year; Akhurst named tournament MVP

Rayner family shocked by theft of memorial fire pit from Lake Cowichan

Roasting wieners at the site is part of a fun ritual when the family visits Darreld Rayner’s memorial

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan council to grill Catalyst July 23 on ‘end run’ around weir pumping agreement

Councillors want community out in force at meeting to hear what’s going on with the weir

Injured fawn at B.C. vet will be euthanized Friday night unless claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer is currently being treated at West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: IIO

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

Most Read