For some, the drive to Tofino and Ucluelet is already an arduous journey, although it’s always worth the time, twists and turns. For the next couple years, however, it’s about to become even more of a trek. A section of Highway 4 is scheduled to be widened, repaired and upgraded, which means the potential for long delays, single lane alternating traffic, overnight closures and a bit more of a commitment to arrive at the beautiful west coast of Vancouver Island. By 2020, the roads should be good to go and the upgrades are aimed to increase the safety of the road, as well as enhance visitor experience.
While the Highway 4 is nowhere near impossible, just mildly more inconvenient, there are a few things to be prepared for before embarking from Port Alberni to the coast!
To avoid long, overnight delays, try to leave Port Alberni by 7:30pm
The single lane traffic will alternate every 30-minutes-or-so, so expect delays of that length
Single lane alternating traffic will occur between 7am-10pm year round
Overnight, the roads will be closed for 1-3 hours for major work like blasting
Good news! Traffic stoppages aren’t allowed on Friday evenings between 10pm-midnight
Better news! Traffic stoppages also aren’t allowed during long weekends, which includes the day before and after
Long weekends will still experience single lane alternating traffic
So there’s the rough overall when it comes to the changes that are going to be happening and how they’ll take place. If you’ve never been on Highway 4 before, or aren’t sure how the delays will affect you besides making you sit in your car for extra half-hours at a time, here are a couple of tips:
Highway 4 is windy with hills and narrow roads – those prone to car sickness might want to pack some Gravol
Large trucks often travel on Highway 4. Be prepared to come across logging trucks around corners hugging the mountain wall
There is no cell service for most of the journey between Port Alberni-Ucluelet/Tofino
There are only two washroom stops on Highway 4
There are no gas stations between Port Alberni and Ucluelet/Tofino
Bring snacks in case of long delays
Bring water in case of long delays
Incredible views, mountains, lakes, and trees reside along the highway – remember to focus on the road!
Of course, you can always choose an alternative route to Tofino, or Ucluelet, including flying into the Tofino Airport. There’s also a passenger ferry that runs from Port Alberni to Ucluelet.
Be sure to check out this website for updates and information (plus a fun little video of what the changes will look like): https://www.discoverucluelet.com/highway-4-kennedy-hill-upgrades
This website is key for finding out road closure schedules: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-infrastructure/projects/highway4kennedyhill/traffic-advisories