British Columbia

Vancouver Island highway closing during peak tourist season angers business owners

A stretch of Highway 19A (Old Island Highway) near Fanny Bay will be closed for about six weeks as crews replace a culvert. This has many small business owners worried about how they will be able to financially sustain themselves during peak tourist season.

'I can't believe it ... it's too much of an impact on our business,' says inn owner

Highway 19A, outside of Qualicum Beach. (Google Maps)

A stretch of Highway 19A, also called the "Old Island Highway" on the east side of Vancouver Island, will close for about six weeks as the Ministry of Transportation replaces a culvert.

The road closure has sparked concern among business owners along that stretch of the highway. They fear their businesses will suffer and say the government gave little advance notice. Some only recently received a notice.

The road closing will occur near Fanny Bay, a small municipality about midway between Nanaimo and Campbell River.

Fanny Bay Inn owner Roxanne O'Brien said she was notified last week. Road signs are up now, advising the drivers of the pending closing, which have affected her business.

The inn is located about 25 kilometres northwest of Qualicum Beach.

 "I can't believe it ... it's too much of an impact on our business this time of year," O'Brien said.

'I got 16 people that I employ ... and feed ... that’s huge,' says Fanny Bay Inn owner Roxanna O'Brien. (Fanny Bay Inn/Facebook)

Too late to adapt

The highway closure is scheduled from August 12 until September 20. 

O'Brien said she understands the culvert must be replaced, but she wants the ministry to know her livelihood will be affected. She also wonders why the work can't be accomplished by reducing the highway to one lane. That way traffic can still move through the area.

"Do you have any idea how this impacts our business? I got 16 people that I employ and feed ... that's huge," O'Brien said.

She said she spoke to Claire Trevena, the minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and MLA for North Island.

"She said there's nothing that can be done ... one lane traffic ... that's all we're asking ... we're not asking anyone to stop the job, we're not asking anyone for miracles ... it's substantial," said O'Brien.

Long term impact

Daniel Arbour, Comox Valley Regional District Area director for Fanny Bay, said he thinks 10 to 50 business will be affected.

"I think everyone felt that the notice was a bit too quick to adapt ... this is the time of year where they make their income to sustain the rest of the year ... I don't want to underestimate the potential impact this may have," said Arbour.

The transportation ministry said in a statement that it recognizes the impact of the road closure on local business and residents, but says the work must be done during the summer months.

"Fish passage and habitat restoration is also a very important component of this project. Crews will ensure a sustainable and improved stream crossing," said the statement.

with files from All Points West

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