Rain stalls efforts to fix highway

The war effort pulled rank over state Department of Transportation officials’ plans to fly over special traffic signals for the one-lane Kuhio Highway in Kilauea.

Rod Haraga, state DOT director, explained that the C-17 cargo plane that was tabbed to fly over the special signals yesterday was commandeered for duty in Iraq.

The signals, which could give welcome relief to Kaua’i Police Department officers and members of state DOT-Highways Division road crews on traffic-control duty since the flood of March 14, were to be flown to the island today, and are to be installed today, he said.

Members of a crew from Jas W. Glover Ltd. were ready to perform repair work on the road last night, but were sidelined by continued showers, said Haraga and Scott Ishikawa, DOT spokesperson.

They will try again tonight, weather-permitting, Haraga said. A decision will be made by 5 p.m., Ishikawa said.

“Obviously, everything is based on the weather,” said Haraga, who remains determined to get the highway re-opened to two lanes quickly.

“We can’t re-pave in the rain,” Ishikawa said.

“I want to get that road open as soon as possible to two lanes of traffic,” said Haraga, indicating his hope that the weather will cooperate and the work can be completed by this weekend.

The forecast calls for continued showers today through at least Friday.

Kuhio Highway was closed for a day and a half, March 14 and March 15, after millions of gallons of water rushed over and under it when Ka Loko Reservoir gave way. The flood washed away at least two homes along Wailapa Stream, killing three people, with four others missing and presumed dead.

Kuhio Highway has been limited to one-lane traffic since then, with KPD officers and others assigned to traffic-control work. Haraga said state DOT-Highways Division crew members may have been helping direct traffic.

Even after the Glover men make the necessary repairs, re-paving and re-striping, large, delivery-type trucks will still need to be escorted over the center of the road, Haraga and Ishikawa said.

“We lost most of the shoulder already,” said Ishikawa.

So those making deliveries in large delivery trucks are asked to call the state DOT-Highways Division office, 241-3000, to let officials there know around the time they’d be arriving at the section of the highway between the 21 and 22 mile markers known as “Ground Zero.”

While Ishikawa said one lane of the road would remain open during the late-night/early-morning repairs once weather permits them, Haraga earlier yesterday, during a telephone interview, said the highway would need to be closed during some of the work, for the safety of the workers.

In addition to the reconstruction and re-paving of the road, members of the Glover crew will also be installing striping dots to delineate the two lanes, Haraga explained.

The raised, half-moon-shaped pieces are known as Botts Dots, after their inventor, he added.

Steve Kyono, state DOT-Highways Division Kaua’i district engineer, said that some preparatory work was scheduled to take place last night, with members of a crew working to get rid of the old highway striping and performing some other chores.

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