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‘Major road failure’ during blasting isolates Tofino, Ucluelet from rest of Vancouver Island

Click to play video 'Construction failure on Highway 4 cuts off Vancouver Island coastal communities' Construction failure on Highway 4 cuts off Vancouver Island coastal communities
A major construction failure shut down the only road in and out of Tofino and Ucluelet -- cutting those communities off from the rest of Vancouver Island. Neetu Garcha reports – Jan 23, 2020

The Vancouver Island communities of Tofino and Ucluelet will remain without road access overnight after a “major road failure” on Highway 4 Thursday.

DriveBC says the road is closed in both directions at Kennedy Lake due to the blockage, adding late in the day there would be no update until 6 a.m. Friday.

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The Ministry of Transportation said the failure was a result of an accident during construction on the highway.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island’s Highway 4 closed due to wash out

“During a scheduled blast overnight at the Highway 4/Kennedy Hill Safety Improvements project, rockfall from the blast resulted in a failure of the road,” said a ministry spokesperson in an email.

“The contractor was following an approved plan for the blast but larger than anticipated rockfall resulted in a portion of the road being impacted making it unsafe for the ministry to open the highway at this time.”

READ MORE: Tofino, Ucluelet become latest in B.C. to outlaw plastic items as bans take effect

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The ministry said the road was closed at the time of the blast. It said geotechnical engineers were on site and had determined it was safe to begin repairs.

The ministry said crews worked through the night and would reassess the situation at first light.

Click to play video 'Timelapse shows Highway 4 road condition before collapse' Timelapse shows Highway 4 road condition before collapse
Timelapse shows Highway 4 road condition before collapse – Jan 23, 2020

“We have no way to drive out now. We’re fortunate to have an airport, so there are ways that people can get out. But usually it means you just have to hang tight and wait,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne.

“If you’re a visitor who’s waiting to come out for your hotel reservation or maybe you were staying here and you’re trying to get home now it’s obviously a huge inconvenience.”

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The province is in the midst of a $38-million safety upgrade to the Kennedy Hill portion of Highway 4, for work on a 1.5 kilometre stretch adjacent to Kennedy Lake.

The work includes widening shoulders and adding a new rest area.

Osborne said the work is badly needed.

“It’s just over one kilometre that literally hangs on the side of a cliff next to Kennedy Lake and its got a series of tight curves with poor sight lines and very, very slow travel,” she said.

“So it’s been an area that’s been targeted for some safety upgrades for some time.”

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DriveBC had previously listed overnight road closures and delays along the very same stretch of road due to planned construction work.

Work was planned Thursday morning from 1-4 a.m. and 5-7 a.m.