The provincial government announced it will be spending over $30 million to improve Bamfield Road, a Vancouver Island access and logging route that has been the site of multiple fatal incidents.
The province is providing $25.7 million for the project, and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, located at the end of Bamfield Road, is providing an additional $5 million.
Huu-ay-aht will manage the project with technical support from the consulting firm Urban Systems. The government says the Nation will also be providing in-kind resources including gravel from gravel pits on their treaty lands.
In September 2019, two UVic students were killed when a bus carrying a field trip to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre rolled over on the logging road.
Eight members of the Huu-ay-aht Nation, which is only accessible by land via the road, have also died since Bamfield Road opened for public use.
“Most recently, we had one of our workers involved in an accident because there was too much dust,” Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. said in a press conference on Friday.
“He hit the back of a logging truck. We’re glad that safety is going to be addressed.”
Improvements to the 76-kilometre stretch of road will include safety upgrades and hard surfacing the road with a seal coat.
Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser said that the project will provide key infrastructure in the region and credited Huu-ay-aht members for their role in bringing the issue to light.
“Huu-ay-aht First Nations have been advocating for these road improvements for many years,” said Fraser.
“Their partnership is central to this important project, which will support reconciliation goals, our treaty relationship and, most importantly, safer travel for Huu-ay-aht members to and from their community.”
The project is expected to take between two to three years to complete, however a start date for construction has not yet been announced.
Fraser said on Friday that the Bamfield Road improvements are part of the province’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan and will therefore begin in the near future.
When asked if telecommunication improvements will also be implemented in the area due to safety concerns with cell service, Fraser said the government is still examining the possibility.