Olohena Bridge to re-open

LIHU’E – Kaua’i County officials were recently elated to hear that members of Unlimited Construction Services crews worked quickly to ensure the opening of the new bridge along ‘Olohena Road by the second week of October.

Yesterday, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste announced news that the bridge will open by the afternoon of this Friday, Oct. 7, a week ahead of that schedule.

“We are very pleased this project has gone smoothly, and the new ‘Olohena bridge will soon be opened to the public,” said Baptiste in a statement he released during a meeting with reporters in his office at the Lihu’e Civic Center.

“We’re also appreciative of the fact that Unlimited is completing the job way ahead of schedule.”

Randy Finlay, vice president of Unlimited Construction Services, attributed the sped-up work to “Mother Nature, the spirit of cooperation (between federal, state and county officials and company leaders), and a dedicated crew.”

The lack of rain helped expedite the work, Finlay said.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, who attended the meeting, said leaders with the construction company had said the work could be done in five months.

With the reopening of the bridge this Friday, the work will have taken 3 1/2 months or so, he said.

As an incentive, construction-company leaders will receive a bonus of $250,000.

As part of the $4.2-million project, Federal Highway Administration officials put up a little more than $3 million, and county leaders put up $850,000 initially, then another $500,000 to expedite the work.

County officials have scheduled a ceremony at 10 a.m. this Friday, Oct. 7, to mark the reopening of the bridge, according to Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer.

The only work left to do is the installation of guardrails on the cement bridge, and the laying of lane stripes on the bridge road, Fujimoto said.

The construction of the new bridge drew complaints from Glenn Mickens and other Wailua residents.

They had complained the work, to replace a 35-year-old bridge that could collapse under the weight of too-heavy vehicles, would force them onto alternate routes they deemed to be narrow and requiring up-grading work, and would significantly lengthen their travel time through the Kawaihau District.

But even before the bridge work got under way, scheduled road repaving of at least one of those roads had taken place.

Guardrails were erected on Kainahola Road for safety reasons. More speed signs to encourage motorists to drive safely also were installed.

Critics also said they wanted the installation of a steel-framed Acrow Bridge, manufactured in Carlstadt, N.J., instead of the concrete bridge county officials decided on. The steel bridge would have been cheaper, and could have been installed quicker, they said.

The bridges are far less expensive to install, can be broken down and used elsewhere, but also can be used on a permanent basis, an Acrow official has said.

Because the bridges are steel and can rust or degrade in the humid weather found in Hawai’i, maintenance problems could have arisen in time, Fujimoto said. Hence, the construction of the cement bridge was pursued, he said.

During the installation of the new bridge, many motorists didn’t stop at the intersection of ‘Olohena and Ka’apuni roads, Fujimoto said.

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