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Clear path to Hanalei

HANALEI — Kuhio Highway was closed just before Hanalei Town on Christmas, even though the Hawaii Department of Transportation has paused roadwork on their Hanalei hill slope-stabilization project and full-lane closures in the area are about to come to an end.

Since May, HDOT has been doing a slope-stabilization project in the area just before the Hanalei Bridge, and traffic has mostly been filtering through one lane.

Helicopter work in early December was successful, according to HDOT, and helped move the project forward. Currently there aren’t any additional full-highway closures at the Hanalei hill planned, other than brief closures to move equipment.

HDOT is even on an extended holiday break from the project, one that started Dec. 21 and continues through Jan. 2, and that means no lane closures currently.

But heavy rain overflowed Hanalei River on Christmas Day, triggering a closure of Kuhio Highway.

Larry Harper at Ching Young Village said lower customer numbers for many businesses equate to lower revenues compared to last year.

“Usually, that’s a busy day, but with the bridge closed, it was quiet up here Christmas Day,” Harper said.

In early December, just before the busy holiday shopping season, business owners in Hanalei sent a letter to HDOT to see if they could change scheduled road closures that have been impacting their businesses.

It was impossible, though, according to the response they got from Larry Dill, with HDOT’s Kauai District engineer, because of the project’s connection to the emergency relief fund. That connection triggered a mandated Jan. 28 deadline for the project issued by Gov. David Ige.

Other roadblocks to getting the project done by deadline have included shearwaters and the holiday season itself.

“The restriction on night work between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15 due to the shearwaters, the no lane closures during the holiday season, and the requirement to complete the work by the upcoming expiration of the governor’s proclamation on Jan. 28 left very little opportunity to adjust the schedule,” Dill said in the response to Hanalei business owners, dated Dec. 17.

Dill also pointed out another unique aspect to the Hanalei hill project, which was a little more of a scramble to put together than other HDOT projects.

“The work at the bridges and the Hanalei hill was done with little to no opportunity for geotechnical investigation beforehand, which meant that work plans had to be adjusted on the fly, as differing conditions were encountered,” Dill said in the letter. “Scope of work and schedules were often changing. “

Now that the holiday season is over, the bulk of the Hanalei hill project is over and the waters in the Hanalei River are starting to recede, so travel in and out of Hanalei should be smoother sailing.

In order to finish by the Jan. 28 deadline, though, HDOT is planning night closures at the approaches to the Waipa and Waikoko bridges so staff can finish paving at the bridge approaches in the second week of January.

“The only other significant work planned for the North Shore at the moment for 2020 is the replacement of the three Wainiha bridges. That project should be bid shortly,” Dill said.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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