Highway 4 on Vancouver Island will reopen at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 23, a day ahead of schedule.
The highway, connecting Port Alberni, Bamfield, Ucluelet and Tofino with the east side of Vancouver Island, has been closed since June 6 after the Cameron Bluffs wildfire reached the highway.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure made the announcement Friday afternoon.
“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.”
The highway will open with single lane alternating traffic around the clock through a two-kilometre stretch along Cameron Bluffs. A pair of cranes holding up a 277-linear-metre mesh wall has been put into place to catch any rock falling in the aftermath of the wildfire. Concrete barriers have been placed in the lane closest to the bluff for 360 metres.
Drivers should be prepared for lineups at least two kilometres long on either side of the single lane portion during peak times—there is no set schedule for traffic queuing. Speed limit will be 30 km/h through the construction zone and traffic will follow a pilot car.
Cyclists are being advised to “take the lane” and proceed with the piloted convoy.
Oversized commercial vehicles will not be able to pass the affected area. The detour route via Lake Cowichan and Bamfield Main will remain open until Highway 4 is fully reopened. The ministry will continue to monitor traffic flow and safety through the affected site on the main highway to determine if any further restrictions are warranted.
Cathedral Grove (MacMillan Provincial Park) will be closed until the highway fully reopens, possibly in mid-July. The grove—a popular tourist spot featuring giant Douglas fir trees—was not affected by the fire. Other rest areas at Cameron Lake and Beaufort Picnic Area will also be closed.
“To keep traffic moving we ask that drivers not linger,” the MOTI post notes. “Vehicles will not be permitted to stop at parks or along roadsides in the area.”
Drivers are reminded to fuel up before entering the lineup and ensuring they have extra supplies, food and water for the trip.
Local officials relieved highway is reopening
News of the highway’s early reopening was welcomed by Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions.
“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,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Representatives from Tourism Ucluelet and the Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce were also relieved at the news.
“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,” said Tourism Ucluelet chair Heather Riddick. “Our communities and businesses are ready to welcome guests back and share everything the West Coast has to offer.”
Laura McDonald, president of the Tofino-Long Beach chamber, said the reopening is welcome new for small businesses on the coast 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,” she said.
“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.”
Wildfire still burning but under control
The Cameron Bluffs wildfire is still listed with BC Wildfire Service as 229 hectares but is considered under control and not likely to spread. Firefighters continue to patrol the fire and extinguish hot spots in accessible terrain.
Updates to the park can be found online at bcparks.ca/active-advisories/.
For updates on road conditions, check DriveBC.ca or travel advisories at www.tranbc.ca/current-travel-advisories/.