British Columbia

B.C. mayor calling for internet access on stretch of Vancouver Island highway

The mayor of Ucluelet is calling for wireless internet to be installed along a stretch of highway that connects the west coast community to the rest of Vancouver Island.

Highway 4 construction project means long traffic delays where there is no cell service

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel would like Wi-Fi technology installed along a 1.5-kilometre stretch of Highway 4 where there is no cellular service. (BC Transportation/Twitter)

The mayor of Ucluelet, B.C., is calling for wireless internet to be installed along a stretch of highway that connects the west coast community to the rest of Vancouver Island.

Mayor Mayco Noel says ongoing upgrades on Highway 4 are forcing residents to sit in their vehicles for long stretches of time with no way to communicate because there is no cell service in that area. Noel says installing Wi-Fi at both ends of the construction zone could make it less frustrating for locals who rely on the road as the only access route in and out of Ucluelet and Tofino.

The Ministry of Transportation is responsible for the upgrades near Kennedy Lake, about 12 kilometres northeast of the Ucluelet/Tofino junction on Highway 4. Construction began in 2018 and Noel says it is expected to last for another 12 to 18 months.

"We are just nervous there are going to be continuous, unplanned shutdowns of the highway and we'd like to get some better communication when we are sitting in the lineup for sometimes hours on end," said Noel on CBC's All Points West.

The Kennedy Hill project will upgrade 1.5 kilometres of the Pacific Rim highway adjacent to Kennedy Lake. (Discoverucluelet.com)

Noel said his concern is primarily for residents, many of whom are trying to make it to medical appointments or work, as well as contractors commuting from Port Alberni, such as plumbers and electricians, who service the west coast communities.

"We're not talking about 20 minutes of shutdowns here," said Noel, adding people are using roadside ditches as toilets while they wait.

The mayor said if people were able to connect to the internet in the area they could also check online to see how long the closure is expected to last, information that is often posted on Facebook.

He estimates it would cost about $100,000 to pay for the technology necessary to set up Wi-Fi where construction is happening, which is about a 1.5-kilometre stretch.

"Something needs to happen," said Noel. "It's the next best thing to having cellular coverage there."

With files from All Points West

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